In houses and office spaces across South Carolina, young volunteers and interns for leading presidential candidates chatter on telephones amid stacks of fliers and posters while campaign banners loom large on the walls.
The presidential race has become a race against time, with campaigners ramping up efforts to reach as many potential voters as possible before the state’s primaries Feb. 20 and 27.
“We have college students, down to high school students; we have families come in that’ll bring their youngest kids and put them on the phone and it’s really kind of cute to hear some of the calls,” said Andrew Gray, an intern for theTed Cruz campaign
at the Gervais Street office in Columbia. “We have families that go door to door trying to support the cause, every demographic you can think of.”
This is Gray’s first political campaign. He was looking for an internship to supplement his economics major during his senior year at the University of South Carolina and researched the Republican before determining it was a good fit.
“He’s just open and honest,” said Gray, who had the chance to meet Cruz and his wife. “He’s very down-to-earth, his family is very down-to-earth and they are very humble people.”
Elizabeth Wilson, who spends two nights a week making calls for Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign, has noticed “much more positive energy” in the office leading up to the S.C. primaries.
From the other side of the aisle and the other side of Columbia, Clinton’s campaign office also is increasing energy and efforts leading up to the Democratic primary.
In a small bungalow on Richland Street, the Clinton office bustles with activity throughout the day and night. Lawn signs are piled high against the wall and decorated signs with slogans like “Girls just want 2 have fundamental rights” are propped on fireplace mantels. A cardboard Clinton cutout, adorned with a stars and stripes scarf, oversees the constant background hubbub of phone calls by volunteers and interns each night.
“Things have amped up 100 percent. We’re all so motivated to do that last phone call at 8:59 or knock on that last door,” said Megan Simmons, a part of the Clinton campaign’s fellowship program. The teenager, an aspiring journalist, is counting down the days until the Feb. 27 Democratic primary.
Douglas Waites, 27, another volunteer with the campaign, was also drawn to Clinton because she is the most in-line with his principles.
“She is the only person I believe could handle the presidency at this point,” said Waites, who tries to spend two nights a week making calls at the campaign office.
Jamie Harrison, the S.C. Democratic Party chairman, is especially encouraging younger citizens to make sure their voices are heard in the upcoming primaries. He said his goal is to ensure everyone registered to vote understands the process of the primaries to make sure their vote counts for the candidate that most reflects their values.
“I think for young people, there are so many issues, not only student loan debt but health care and all these various issues that I believe can impact the quality of your life,” said Harrison.
“I’m hoping that college students and young professionals in general will pay very close attention to what is being said by both parties and all the candidates in the parties and pick the best person that best reflects the values that we all have.”
Lia Grabowski is with The Carolina Reporter.