By Adam B Sullivan
President Obama is pushing hard to regain youth support this year, but College Republicans at the University of Iowa aren’t buying it.
The president spoke in Iowa City on Wednesday as part of a three-day campus tour to push Congress to pass legislation that would keep student loan interest rates down.
“This is a question of values,” Obama told college reporters on Tuesday during a conference call. “We can’t let America become a country where a shrinking number of people are doing really well, a growing number of people struggle to get by, and you’ve got fewer ladders for people to climb into the middle class and get more opportunity.”
While the president’s visit to the UI — as well as one to the University of North Carolina Tuesday and one to University of Colorado Thursday — is officially a White House trip, the Iowa City stop felt more like a campaign event. But in addition to the more than 3,000 students and locals who turned out to see Obama at the White House, a handful of College Republicans showed up outside to picket.
UI Senior Jon Twillman wielded a “NOBAMA” sign in front of the event. Twillman said fixing education in the United States will require something besides what Obama plans to do.
“I think it’s a much bigger question than just leaving the rates down,” Twillman said. “It’s a very complicated issue. We’re transferring loans from the private sector — which you can get from your local bank and keep money in the community — to making everything go through the federal government.”
Another anti-Obama protestor, UI College Republicans Chairwoman Kelsey Boehm, said she agrees with the president’s plan to keep interest rates low — something likely GOP nominee Mitt Romney is also on board with — but she still thinks it’s important to show some opposition to the president.
“We just wanted to make sure everyone knows there are conservatives on campus because Iowa City is such a liberal town,” Boehm said.
The president’s popularity with young voters in 2008 helped him win the Democratic nomination and the general election. However, countless reports suggest that support is dwindling, leading the president to push student issues to the forefront.
But young Republicans at the UI say low interest rates don’t matter if you don’t have a job to pay off your loans after college.
“Look at the economy — if you want a job and you’re gradutinag with a higher education degree, I think the Republican party deserves a look,” Twillman said. “Come fall, I know a lot of my friend who supported Barack Obama with a lot of energy are dissatisfied. Come November, hopefully there’ll be a change.”