KU's College Republicans include (back row, L to R) Renee Klinges, Karen Seck, Jesse Vaugh, (front row, L to R) Beka Romm, Bill Walberg, and Elizabeth Roybal.

KU's College Republicans include (back row, L to R) Renee Klinges, Karen Seck, Jesse Vaugh, (front row, L to R) Beka Romm, Bill Walberg, and Elizabeth Roybal.

It's rush hour on a chilly Thursday evening, just a few days before mid-term elections.

At the busy intersection of 23rd and Iowa, cars line up to head back toward wherever home is.

At one corner of the intersection stands a bundled-up group of people flapping and waving Jim Ryun signs. Every once in awhile, a car honks in approval. Or maybe, considering Lawrence's voting record, in condemnation.

In any case, most just drive by.

Among the group is Beka Romm, a member of KU College Republicans (KUCR). This sign-waving is just the beginning of her final push for Republican victories on election day.

"I live for this weekend," she says before rattling off the events she's planned.

Friday, she'll make signs for the upcoming Bush rally. Then, she'll attend a meeting with some of her Republican friends to plan for the rally. Saturday, she's promised to participate in a literature drop for some Republican candidates. She's a little embarrassed to admit that she's also dropping some literature for Barbara Ballard, the Democratic candidate for the 45th District State Representative. But Ballard is a friend of Romm's and, as Romm is quick to explain, is pretty conservative for a Democrat.

Then there's Sunday. The big day. President Bush is coming to Topeka and nearly all the members of KUCR are heading down to show support.

Romm has already met the president. When she was 15, she was at a summer political camp in D.C. One day, while visiting the White House, she took a wrong turn on her way to the bathroom and-literally-bumped into President Bush.

"Those trips to D.C. really cemented what I wanted to do," Romm says. Which, she adds, is anything involving politics.

Romm grew up in a tiny town north of Salina and was home-schooled by her father, a Republican political enthusiast who assigned her readings by the Founding Fathers instead of Faulkner or Seuss. He also taught her constitutional law at an early age.

Romm says, "I always campaigned for as long as I can remember."

In a sea of blue

For Romm and others campaigning for Kansas Fepublican candidates, the president's visit could be clutch.

Jim Ryun is running a tight race against his Democratic opponent, Nancy Boyda. His office's own polls show Ryun trailing two points less than a week before election day.

If Boyda topples the long-standing incumbent-which, as Bush's visit would indicate, is a strong possibility-and other Democrats around the country fare as well in their elections as recent polls predict, liberals could gain control of Congress for the first time since 1995.

That's just what a majority in Lawrence want. After all, Douglas County has long been abastion of blue in Kansas, a historically red state. KUCR, a group with about 40 regular members, is-unlike few locales in the state-a minority in Lawrence.

But that doesn't intimidate KUCR member Bill Walberg.

Walberg, a sophomore, grew up near San Francisco, another historically liberal area. His mother, he says, is "a hardcore Republican" and his father is a Democrat and a member of the Sierra Club. So Walberg is no stranger to heated political debates.

"I love it, personally," he says. "I really enjoy talking politics with people who oppose me because it just gets my adrenaline going. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay area, which is 70 percent Democrat, 30 percent Republican. Then I come to KU, which I thought was conservative originally, but I've found it's the only blue county in Kansas:I'm still trying to understand Kansas politics."

Romm says being a Republican in Lawrence can be lonely, and brutal.

Especially since the last election, Republicans have had to weather a string of scandals.

The Downing Street memo, the handling of the war in Iraq, photos from Guatanamo prison camps, the administration's leak of a covert C.I.A. agent's name, the events surrounding the resignation of Mark Foley, and fraud, bribery, and other lobbying indiscretions tied to Jack Abramoff.

Each scandal has been protracted over weeks, and together have taken a heavy toll on the party's image.

"Sometimes getting hammered with it all the time does make you feel down, like you're the only person that's a Republican," she says.

Romm says even professors at KU take issue with her conservative views. One professor, after viewing her Facebook profile, began to put Romm down in class for being a Republican.

That, Romm says, was "honestly a little weird."

The good fight

KUCR chair Renee Klinges says that "because there are so many liberals in Lawrence, those who seek out the Republican group tend to stick with it longer and attend more meetings."

Members meet every Tuesday in the Kansas Union. Usually, they invite a speaker and hold issues debates on topics like negative campaign ads or what to do about North Korea. They also share info on candidate campaigns and organize booths to register students to vote.

In 2004, the Journal-World reported that KUCR was targeting exclusively sororities and fraternities, where students may "be more sympathetic to the Republican cause" as opposed to manning general voter registration booths on campus.

The story quoted KUCR then-president Justin McFarland: "If you're registering a lot of Democrats, it's not worth it."

Audio clips

KU College Republicans

But Klinges says KUCR has since changed that practice because, she says, it's important for everyone to vote.

"Now, we pretty much set our voter registration right in the middle of campus. We'd like for you to vote, and it's important to get involved," Klinges says.

KUCR isn't all politics. It's a social outlet, too. There was a Halloween party last week, and this week, members are getting together to track election results.

"It's kind of a fun time to get together and have issues debates," Romm says, adding that KUCR members don't always agree.

"Within the group, the Libertarians and moderate Republicans may really clash."

"I think it's really good for all college students to learn how to:fight without being too aggressive or too mean, and then, after the debate's over, to all go out to Buffalo Wild Wings," Romm says.

"If more congressmen knew how to do that in Washington, D.C., we'd be a lot better off."

Relishing the challenge

Walberg describes himself as socially moderate and fiscally conservative. He's into trickle-down economics, doesn't fully buy into evolution or global warming, and, coming from California, wants tough laws against illegal immigration.

"They take almost $1 billion from California taxpayers," Walberg says. He adds that, in California, if you drive far enough south, there are "signs on the side of the road with a family running. I don't know if that was a joke, but it was a real road sign."

This fall, Walberg has worked at the Dole Institute of Politics at KU. He's planning to volunteer for a Republican phone bank, calling registered Republicans and Independents to encourage them to vote.

He has also marched in a few parades for Phill Kline, the controversial attorney general candidate up for re-election against Paul Morrison, who has a 13-point lead going into the election (according to a Wichita Eagle Poll).

In Lawrence, you'd be hard-pressed to cross town without spotting a pro-Morrison or anti-Kline bumper sticker-"Phill Kline is watching you" is popular.

When explaining why he's not very involved with Kline's campaign anymore, Walberg chooses his words carefully-a necessary talent for an aspiring politician.

"I don't really want to associate, put a partisan thing:I'm kinda neutral on that. I don't want to jump blindly on some guy's bandwagon," Walberg says.

But there are many members of KUCR working to re-elect Kline.

Klinges is particularly involved. Between classes and at night she stuffs envelopes with candidate info and drops Kline literature at doorsteps around town. She also makes campaign calls to independent voters.

Those calls can be tough, she says, because many people glean their candidate info from negative campaign ads. And many people in Lawrence are quite anti-Kline.

Klinges says that promoting a Republican candidate in Lawrence as opposed to, say, Manhattan, where she grew up, is definitely harder.

"But it's also a challenge," she says. "I love a challenge."

Living the dream

Walberg admits that the race this year between Democrats and Republicans is close. Too close, maybe. But, when you're in politics, you've got to be optimistic.

"There's two sides to the coin," Walberg explains. "If we win:I'm hoping that we will win the election, House and Senate. But if we don't win both, then we're not tied down really to anything that happens in the next two years."

That, he says, could set Republicans up to win the 2008 presidential election.

Lately, for Republicans, no news has been good news. But, Walberg points out, John Kerry's recent snafu (he told a group of college students to study hard or they'd get "stuck in Iraq") "might have handed the election to the Republicans on a silver platter."

"That was probably the worst thing the Democrats could've done," Walberg says. "Worse than a scandal. You just do not talk about the military during a time of war."

Last Sunday, Walberg, Romm, and a few other members of KUCR joined 7,000 people at the Kansas Expocentre for the Bush rally.

They arrived early and worked hard. Walberg worked with the spirit squad, cheering and revving the crowd up for the main event. Romm lent her cheery voice to an on-site phone bank.

Late in the day, when the President finally made his entrance, the KUCR members waved their Jim Ryun signs and homemade Phill Kline signs with pride.

In his speech, Bush addressed everything from the war on terror to Saddam Hussein's death sentence to tax cuts and the economy. But mostly, Bush addressed his fellow Republicans and told them why their party needed to win Tuesday's election.

KU College Republicans meetings

7p.m. Tuesdays in Kansas Room of the Kansas Union KU College Republicans regular meeting Other event info at http://groups.ku.edu/~kucr/

"I'm revved up," Walberg said after the speech. "I'm ready for Tuesday to come now. I have a lot of optimism. If 10,000 people showed up tonight, and if those people tell 10 other people to vote, that's 100,000 people that will vote Republican Tuesday."

Romm was similarly rapturous after Bush spoke. "I was like, just campaign all weekend and then you can campaign Tuesday," she said. "Now I'm like, hmm...skip class? Not do homework? Campaign a little more?"

This week, the KU College Republicans will find out if their dedication and fervent optimism pays off at the polls. But no matter how the elections turn out, Walberg says seeing the President made it all worth it.

"I've lived a dream," he says. "I could die happy tomorrow."


grammarphone 15 years, 6 months ago

good story by lawrence.com. It is a little disappointing, though, to see that young people still adamantly support a president who had blatantly disregarded their futures (education, global politics, the economy, the environment). Experts in political science say that the partisanship of a person's family is the strongest indicator of how they will vote--not issues, not campaigns--and the fact that the KUCR are still going strong is the best support those experts could get. Politics aside, though, I give the students in this article a lot of credit for sticking to their convictions, no matter how much I (and hopefully most of the electorate) may disagree.

turdfurgeson 15 years, 6 months ago

they sure do get 'em young, dont they? true republican style.

alm77 15 years, 6 months ago

Aw, poor kids. Went to bed in a red state and woke up in a blue one. All that work....

Rob Gillaspie 15 years, 6 months ago

If her family knows firsthand what the Nazi regime was capable of, then why do they allow thier child to blindly goosestep with the (former) GOP party line? Granpappy must be rolling in his grave...

Shelby 15 years, 6 months ago

Yes, Rob...Republicans are just like Nazis.

Such reasoned and thoughtful commentary. And now, this is your cue to chime in with your "CENSORSHIP!" accusastions...

smerdyakov 15 years, 6 months ago

Now the onus is on the Dems to exhibit some leadership in the next two years, lest this be the lone censure of the administration. If they fail to do anything meaningful, they won't have much of a platform for president. But if they can scrap together a vision for Iraq (starting with forcing Rummy out) and find a socially conservativesque candidate for president (likely not Hillary), the red base may well remain divided two years from now.

Rob Gillaspie 15 years, 6 months ago

Gloat if you want, Shelby, but if YOU had made a similar sounding comment, it would never have been removed. Aren't these kids blind followers (like the Hitler Youth)? And weren't the heads of the Nazi Party hung publicly after the Nuremberg trials? I fail to see why my comment was deleted... Actually, I don't. It's pretty well known that I'm on "the list" around here, and have had more comments needlessly deleted than anyone else. I've stopped letting it bother me.

Shelby 15 years, 6 months ago

I think it's still bothering you.

Anyway, you "rationalize" that these kids are "blind followers"...are those in the KU College Democrats NOT blind by virtue of their left-leaning politics? Do you not see the ridiculousness of your statements?

Rob Gillaspie 15 years, 6 months ago

We're not talking about the College Dems, or else I would have said something snarky about them, too.

But the fact of the matter is, those who are sympathetic to our near-fascist GOP are more akin to Nazis than, say, Obama Barak. Call me crazy, the parallels just seem too obvious.

alm77 15 years, 6 months ago

smerdyakov, the red base is already divided, it just going to get worse over the next two years.

Rob, did you see the interactive map on ljworld.com? Your 'east side' was very, very, blue. I can see you and Edie "represent". Good job. Congrats! Now, let's get to work on that Commission spot, ey?

Shelby 15 years, 6 months ago

Maturity, thy name is Rob! I have nothing against you, and I'm sorry my comments have struck some personal chord with you.

Rob Gillaspie 15 years, 6 months ago

And if comments were removed for simple "ridiculousnees," there would be no discussion on these boards. There's something more sinister afoot with the ol' censor button, which I'd like to encourage, because I thrive on whistle-blowing that sorta thing.

Shelby 15 years, 6 months ago

yeah, they don't seem to have a problem with me calling you saddam hussein...you may have a point.

And it's Barak Obama. He's cool, I saw him campaigning for president (while promoting his book at the same time) on Oprah.

I don't agree with your assertion that republicans are more nazi-ish than democrats.

Shelby 15 years, 6 months ago

Phil Cauthon is, it seems, NOT very much like a Nazi.

alm77 15 years, 6 months ago

Oh, and Rob, may I point out that if it were "well known that I'm on "the list" around here," you wouldn't have gotten that sweet piece they gave you about a week ago. Which, by the way, was totally uncensored.

Rob Gillaspie 15 years, 6 months ago

A good portion of the interview (which was later cut) involved me getting grilled for being such a boat-rocker on L.com. The interviewer also confirmed for me, later in the night, that there IS a list, and I'm the only one on it. Straight form the horse's mouth, my friend.

Rob Gillaspie 15 years, 6 months ago

And Shelby--

Did NOT accuse Phil of Nazi-ism. Never have, never will. Please refrain from implying that I did.

Our leaders are guilty of crimes against humanity and should be tried as war criminals. I stand by that opinion, even if the rest of you don't. GO ahead and "suggest removal" of this comment-- It's not gonna make my opinion go away.

Shelby 15 years, 6 months ago

Now he's calling people horses. Is there no end to the hate?

Shelby 15 years, 6 months ago

Hey, that was a joke about phil/nazi--didn't mean to sound like you were accusing him of anything.

He's a delicate flower, we all know that.

alm77 15 years, 6 months ago

One name does not constitute a list and you can't deny that you make some comments in an effort to rock the boat. I remember an instance when you were posting comments under one name and replying to them under another just for that purpose. Its entertaining, but some people may take you too seriously.

ANYWAY, back to the reds...are you happy now?

Rob Gillaspie 15 years, 6 months ago

I'm not saying it isn't warranted... I'm just saying they need to come clean with it and stop acting like this is an even-handed policy. I know I'm not the only one who has comments deleted-- but my are deleted more often than others, and usually for less-than-obvious reasons... Also, I'm the only blogger whose submissions have to be double-checked for offensive content, even though there are other bloggers on this site (not naming names) who consistently say equally inlfammatory and deragatory things as I do. As much as I like the noteriety (and I DO like it, don't get me wrong), I hate the concept of a "public secret"--ie: everyone knows about it, but no one will own up to it.

Before this goes any further, let it be known that I love Phil dearly, and I'm well aware that I make his job much harder than it needs to be. But shouldn't I also be allowed to discuss my viewpoint?

alm77 15 years, 6 months ago

Okay, so you may have grounds to your claim that there is a double standard. That just means you can use the "suggest removal" button, too. And really, Rob, have any of your blog submissions that have been "double-checked for offensive content" been altered? I doubt it. You do get away with some pretty outlandish (albeit funny) things.

and yes, you can discuss your viewpoint, just be sure to back it up with facts and examples like the rest of us have to. Although I've never had a comment removed, I have been subjected to condemnation from other posters from making seeminly unfounded accusations. It sucks, but it also keeps me in check.

Speaking of your viewpoint, you still haven't given one...

twbenson 15 years, 6 months ago

I hope this doesn't mean you're forsaking Democrats, does it?

KUgirl20 15 years, 6 months ago

I would just like to say that those calling us Nazis and making other slanderous and hateful comments should be ashamed. One of the girls featured in this article great grandfather was in a Nazi concentration camp; her family knows firsthand what the Nazi regime was capable of. I think that comment is widely inappropriate, maybe next time before you run your mouth you should consider how it affects the people (who you know nothing about). And for that matter did you even vote?

Karen Seck KU College Republicans Events Chair

smerdyakov 15 years, 6 months ago

To break, for a moment, my refusal to acknowledge online flamers any more than I do Phelps and the like... I want to second what Karen just posted. I'm not Republican, or knee-jerk Democrat for that matter, but I can still respect people who are thoughtful and have convictions that motivate them to act in a constructive manner. The people profiled in this story are clearly that, even if you disagree with their politics.

The war in Iraq was flawed from the day Powell went to the UN and held up faulty intelligence against the CIA's wishes as justification for invasion. The Downing Street Memo and people like Abramoff and his cohorts prove our government is littered with unscrupulous representatives, many of whom are Republicans. But that hardly leads to the conclusion that all Republicans are of that ilk, much less that all Republicans deserve the "Nazi" tag. Throwing around accusations like that (especially without justification) lowers the bar for constructive debate in a country and in a media that badly needs it.

KUgirl20 15 years, 6 months ago

Murderama, did you vote on Tuesday? Do YOU know the issues or do YOU blindly follow party lines?

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