- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 27, 2003

More than 1,000 college Republicans wrap up their 55th national convention today, concluding a week of conservative activism that President Bush’s top political adviser says is essential to a successful re-election campaign.

“The allegiance of your generation is up for grabs, and the president and the Republican leadership in Congress, by their actions, have created a more positive environment for our party among younger voters,” Karl Rove said Friday to the College Republicans at the Capital Hilton Hotel, “but to translate that into success, to make it into something that is durable and viable and powerful for our party and our country, it is all going to come down to you and your actions.”

Mr. Rove, a former chairman of the College Republican National Committee, told the students their activism will be vital in the 2004 presidential election, which he said will be a “narrow, close-fought, hard-fought race.”

“Over the next months, the president will need your help and your activism. Our party will need your energy and your commitment,” Mr. Rove said. “You can play a key role in a crucial moment in the history of our country.”

Attendance at the biennial College Republican National Convention doubled during the previous convention, and the number of College Republican chapters nationwide has tripled in the past four years.

Thirty thousand members were recruited in the past few years through an outreach program that departing committee Chairman Scott Stewart said began four years ago on a balmy night, in a “tiny, dingy, dirty office” with three students and a map of the United States. He said it wasn’t known how the field representatives would be fed or paid, but that in the first year, the program introduced 220 clubs.

For the 2004 campaign, the committee plans to have 40 to 60 field representatives training clubs in the mechanics of campaigning. Mr. Stewart said it is part of a growing Bush following that is recruiting people to the party and attacking liberal dominance on the nation’s campuses.

“College students love the president,” said Jake Grassel, the Minnesota state chairman of College Republicans. “They find that his compassionate conservatism is where they need to be.”

Minnesota is credited with the most growth in college Republican membership, with more than five times as many students involved in chapters than four years ago. The University of California at Berkeley contingent of College Republicans was recognized yesterday as the chapter of the year. It has 500 members.

Polls show that young people are shifting to the right, at least on some key issues. They support a strong national defense.

They are also more conservative than their parents on some social issues, such as abortion, school prayer and federal funding of faith-based charities, according to a study by a UC-Berkeley political scientist.

The incoming chairman of the College Republican National Committee, Eric Hoplin, said he was invited to meet with campaign leaders three days after the campaign had been formed earlier this year.

“It is an example of the importance they put on us and what we can do for campaigns,” he said.

The College Republicans can get results, too. Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, a Republican, credited his victory in 2002 over Democrat Walter F. Mondale to the grass-roots activism of the College Republicans. He made his remarks during a speech at the national convention Friday.

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