Saturday’s Republican primary: Not just for Republicans anymore

The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. today. To find your polling place, go to

It’s Saturday. You’re tired from a long week, probably hung over, and ready to relax.

Get off your ass! You have the fate of the nation in your hands.

Okay, that might be a slight overstatement, but today’s Republican primary is nonetheless extremely important, as is our role as college students in it.

We’ve been hearing our whole lives about the “youth vote” and how important it is that we get out to the polls, and many of us take this with a grain of salt. However, your vote may be more powerful than you think.

In 2008, between 22 and 24 million young Americans ages 18–29 voted, resulting in an estimated youth voter turnout (the percentage of eligible voters who actually cast a vote) of between 49.3 and 54.5 percent, according to an exit poll analysis by CIRCLE, a nonpartisan research center at Tufts University. 66 percent of young voters cast their ballot for Barack Obama, the largest-ever showing for a presidential candidate in this age group.

You might make the excuse that your vote doesn’t matter, but unless you’re a political science major indicting the entire political system, or a philosophy major lamenting the meaninglessness of life itself, you are wrong.

It’s anyone’s race at this point. For Paul and Santorum fans (not to group the two together, as the latter might not even exist on campus while the former are everywhere), even if your candidate doesn’t win South Carolina, your vote really does count for something. A stronger showing will give candidates a reason to stay in the race and compete in other states where they have a better shot of winning.

Even if you don’t see a candidate who represents you, you can still shift the overall ideological direction of the Republican Party. More conservative voters can choose Gingrich or Santorum while moderates can vote for Romney. Libertarians can cast a vote for Ron Paul to show their support for his libertarian ideals.

Democrats, too, can take part in this primary election, albeit in a morally questionable way. All you Obama supporters out there, now might be the time to vote for someone who the president has the best chance of beating, which according to polls would be Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum. If you want to get really strategic, you could vote for whoever will drag out the Republican race as long as possible, weakening the eventual nominee for the general election (you’d want to vote for Gingrich in this case).

Gingrich, with his master debating skills (combined with Romney’s falters), has surged in South Carolina in the hectic week leading up to Saturday, challenging what many called Romney’s guaranteed nomination. The most recent S.C. poll has Gingrich at 40%, Romney at 26%, Ron Paul at 18%, and Santorum at 16%. Don’t let these numbers discourage you, Paul fans – actual results have frequently proven them wrong in the past.

Santorum, too, has been a surprise. Following a freak surge in Iowa, he originally placed second behind Romney by a margin of six votes. It was announced on Thursday, however, that Santorum actually won Iowa by a slightly less slim margin. Although this isn’t a significant change in numbers in terms of the 1245 delegates needed to secure the Republican nomination, it represents the shattered notion that Romney had it on lockdown.

The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. today. To find your polling place, go to The South Carolina primary is open, meaning you can vote for one of the Republican candidates if you are a Republican, Democrat, Independent, Green, Libertarian, or something else – you just have to be registered.

Whether you are a diehard conservative searching for the true Tea Party candidate, an “anybody but Obama” Republican willing to accept whoever has the best chance in the general election, a Ron Paul-ite valiantly fighting to spread the word about your beloved prophet, or simply following the advice of Stephen Colbert and casting a vote for Herman Cain, remember to GET OUT AND VOTE!!!

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