DC conference for conservatives draws students


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Thousands of political savants — including at least one University of Iowa student — gathered in Washington, D.C., this past weekend for a three-day event that included speeches from potential Republican presidential-nomination candidates.

Speakers at the Conservative Political Action Conference included Tea Party supporter Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn, and Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas.

More than 11,000 people attended this year’s conference, a 15 percent increase over last year, according to a release. And approximately 40 percent of those in attendance were students.

John Twillmann, the new head of the University of Iowa College Republicans, said the youth turnout at the event is indicative of more potential voters.

“It’s good as a whole,” he said. “The younger your constituents get, the better.”

Ani DeGroot, the president of the UI chapter of Young Americans for Liberty, a libertarian organization, attended the event for the first time this year.

DeGroot said the results of the conference’s straw poll — Ron Paul received 30 percent of the vote — is indicative of a “national movement.”

“I thought it was an epic time,” she said. “It really showed the excitement behind the Ron Paul movement.”

And Twillmann said he thinks the poll results have set up an “interesting spectacle” for the Republican Party.

“The Republican vote is going to be split a lot of ways,” he said. “Lots of liberals and moderates are coming together for Ron Paul.”

Former UI College Republicans head Natalie Ginty said no members of the group attended the event because of costs, classes, and work but also because most of the speakers will end up coming to Iowa anyway.

“[The conference] is really just a great avenue for discussion,” she said.

However, she said, the results of the conference’s straw poll don’t necessarily predict who will be the Republican nominee in 2012, nor will the results show who will become president.

Susan Jeffrey-Wheeler, former secretary of the Johnson County Republicans, also said the straw poll doesn’t say much about who the Republican presidential candidate will be because no one has officially announced her or his candidacy.

The conference’s attendance shows a rising interest in politics in general, she said.

“The numbers increasing goes along with the concern of all Americans regardless of political affiliation,” she said.

Margaret Murphy, the president of the University Democrats, said the increase in student turnout was expected.

“The issue of higher education has been more talked about this year,” she said. “There are more worries with the economy and tuition, more issues pertaining to college students.”

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