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Inside Politics

Students' mood ranges from elation to depression

Correspondents report on reaction to Bush victory


Editor's Note: Editor's Note: Campus Vibe is a feature that provides student perspectives on the 2004 election from selected colleges across the United States. The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of CNN, its affiliates or the colleges mentioned in this article.

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Spencer Willig and Kerry-Ann Hamilton
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America Votes 2004

(CNN) -- In the wake of the presidential election, CNN.com asked its Campus Vibe correspondents to sum up the mood on their campus. Here's how they described the scene on the day after.

Spencer Willig, University of Pennsylvania

Students wearing Bush-Cheney shirts or pins, obscured Tuesday by overwhelmingly larger piles of Kerry-Edwards clothing and accessories on their Democratic classmates, walked the campus unchallenged Wednesday.

"I wish they'd stop rubbing it in," one pro-Democrat student said, admitting she shed a few tears during John Kerry's concession speech.

Despite headlines in Wednesday's student paper cautiously noting that the race was still on, many at Penn seemed to know that it was all over early in the morning. Some Republican-leaning students felt comfortable calling the race late Tuesday night.

The discussion on how to rebuild the Democratic Party was already well under way among Penn's College Democrats as they watched the news at their post-poll closing party.

Democratic campus organizers at Penn did at least have something on which to hang their pride -- their party won the state. But while early figures indicated a huge surge in voting among Penn students, nationwide statistics on young voters and first-time voters seemed to be identical to those recorded four years ago.

Many Democrats on the Philadephia campus, citing how strongly the 18- to 24-year-old demographic came out for Kerry, were left to wonder why the promised youth vote revolution failed to materialize.

Meanwhile, as Republican students prepared to enjoy the next four years, Penn's Democrats tried to find something to look forward to. As one student put it, "Obama 0-8! Or maybe Obama 0-12."

Kerry-Ann Hamilton, American University

Many American University students woke to an overcast sky in Washington with the sun trying hard to peek through and a brisk light wind. There was little noise except for passing traffic. Election Night parties went on almost through sunrise.

The Republican gathering erupted at 3 a.m., celebrants screaming, yelling and drinking champagne-like sparkling cider when Fox News initially declared that President Bush had won Ohio and most likely the election.

The mostly somber mood of the Democrats was a sharp contrast, as some John Kerry supporters cried and others expressed outright anger about Bush's win.

The celebration continued in the Republican camp, and a large group watched Bush's victory speech in downtown Washington. A member of the College Republicans said they were "thrilled about this victory for the party. We did put in a lot of work, in excess of 1,200 hours of campaign time, and now we have a lot to celebrate."

Kerry supporters were quieter. One student said all they could do was "lick our wounds for a day, but tomorrow the fight continues."

A few months ago, this divided campus maintained that choosing a president was not a black and white matter, but the appropriate shade of gray. America voted for the Bush-gray, and the sky, for some, still holds a touch of blue.

Sonia Moghe, Texas A&M University

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President Bush's re-election left many Texas A&M University students elated. "There is a sigh of relief in Aggieland," said senior Mark McCaig. "It was up in the air until yesterday. Nobody really knew how it was going to go."

Sophomore Joy Mears agreed that most Aggies on the College Station campus were ecstatic about Bush's win, but she was disappointed herself.

"I just can't believe that people would actually want to have George Bush as their president for another four years," she said.

Mears said she wasn't surprised that everyone was happy, but she felt like an outsider. She said she knows plenty of people who voted for Kerry who were upset.

Lauren Rouse, a senior, was happy Bush won but thought the president had work to do. "I think that he should take this next term and think through things a little bit more," Rouse said. "He is going to have to be real careful with what he does with the whole Iraq situation."

Senior Ravi Shah was unhappy about Bush's win but had hope for the future. "If Bush actually learns from his mistakes, and uses the next four years to implement the things that 49 percent of America that didn't vote for him wanted to see happen, [then it's OK]," he said.

Andrea Gabbidon-Levene, Emerson College

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Many Emerson College students expressed disappointment over the election's results.

Since many of the students at Emerson, which is in downtown Boston, Massachusetts, identify themselves as Democrats or liberals, they had been optimistic about John Kerry's campaign.

Dozens of Kerry supporters gathered in Copley Square in Boston on Election Night and Wednesday in Faneuil Hall to greet Kerry before he conceded, holding signs with slogans such as, "Make every vote count."

Some Emerson students said they were concerned that the country has become too divided and worried that Americans are becoming more conservative.

"I'm kind of in shock," said Katie Oliveri, a senior print journalism major. "I'm worried about my future ... about Social Security, Roe v. Wade being reversed, and my rights being taken away. I'm personally scared, and the division in the country is scary right now."

Gina Goodhill, University of Southern California

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After weeks of intense political excitement and activity at USC, the Los Angeles campus seemed oddly quiet and calm on November 3. There were no protests or celebrations on either side, and it was difficult even to find students wearing Kerry or Bush stickers or pins.

Students seemed ready to move away from the election and focus on the next four years, whether they were happy with the results or not.

"I've sort of been surprised that people haven't been more vocal today," said freshman Alex Rhodes. "Before the election, people were more riled up. ...Today, no one's been talking about it much."

Some students said they talked briefly about the election in their classes and they heard students talking about the results with friends and relatives.

One student said both his discussion sections were spent talking about the election results. Despite the scattered conversations, many said the excitement seemed to be over. "It seems that everyone is just going back to their lives," said philosophy major Jesse Mauzy.

Ryan Hagen, New York University

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It has been a damp, drizzly November so far on the NYU campus. Most Election Night parties ended early, as Florida was decided for Bush and it became clear Kerry was not closing the deficit in Ohio.

Reaction among the heavily liberal student body ranged from drama to dejection, and among the campus' small but vocal conservative population, mostly respectful contentment.

Students on both sides said they were cautious about what the next four years would bring, and many expressed concern over the deep cultural and religious divisions that have all but torn the country in two.

The most popular e-mail attachment making the rounds is a map of North America with the "blue" states from the 2004 election absorbed into the "United States of Canada." The "red" states, on the map, combine to be labeled "Jesusland."

Christy Moorehouse, Portland Community College

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Most political displays were gone and students were not talking much about politics. Ricky Clark, communications major and student government member, sat behind the concessions table in the Campus Free Speech Zone at the Oregon school. It was quiet, which seemed uncharacteristic.

Over the past few months this area was a place to get voting information, sign up for the military, meet representatives from various grassroots organizations, be asked to sign a petition and most recently, a place to drop off your ballot. "It's not as lively [on campus]," Clark said.

With the results of the election in, students seemed to be trying to concentrate again on their work. Leah Gibson said it had been hard "to go through that kind of stress during midterms." Whether feeling victorious or defeated, Gibson said, "PCC [students] are still strong. [The election] builds community."

Chris Blank, University of Missouri-Columbia

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The Columbia area as a whole, and students at the University of Missouri specifically, built a slow, yet steady, interest in the 2004 campaign, dipping a toe into the political pool before gradually jumping in.

Campus awareness was lukewarm in February, when many were unaware of the Missouri presidential primary and knew little about the candidates.

But thanks to a massive campaign to reach youth voters by the media, grassroots organizations and the candidates, politics entered the daily lives of many students. It even became a centerpiece around which conversations were woven.

Local campaigns -- from ballot initiatives to change marijuana laws to the Missouri gubernatorial campaign -- involved students in major campaign decisions.

The fleeting interest in politics was all too apparent on the day Kerry conceded to Bush. An NCAA press conference discussing placing the MU basketball program on probation that was held at the same time as Kerry's speech caused a far greater stir than the former candidate's comments did, and dominated conversation and speculation.

Dwayne Robinson, University of Florida

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The University of Florida campus was calm after Bush's victory over Kerry, but that could not be said about the Republican headquarters in Alachua County.

On the day after the election, a 24-year-old Gainesville man threw a piece of a cement block into the window of the county's Republican Executive Committee offices. No one was injured, and the man was arrested and jailed.

Later that day, members of Gainesville NOW (National Organization for Women) held a rally outside the same offices, saying they would not "concede democracy." The protest was peaceful, but police were called to the scene.

Overall, there seemed to be a sense of depression or debilitation among local Democrats after their loss. Even leaders of student Democratic groups left planned celebrations early Tuesday night, anticipating defeat. Republicans on local radio were even more emboldened in this Democratic county, saying it was time to continue converting "lefties."

Dirk VanderHart, Michigan State University

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On the gray day following the 2004 presidential election, there seemed to be a fairly somber mood among many students on the East Lansing campus. Though Gov. Jennifer Granholm and other prominent state Democrats held a press conference to tout the party's statewide efforts, the fact that Michigan went to Kerry seemed to be of little solace to his supporters.

There was bitterness among some toward Ohio, Michigan's neighbor to the south. The state's support of Bush clinched the president's victory in the election, and many students had said they believed Ohio would go to Kerry.

There were also those elated by the election's outcome. Throughout the lengthy campaign season, Bush retained strong support on MSU's campus, and the students who worked for him for months were at ease knowing their man will serve four more years.

Even some Kerry supporters -- those who weren't swearing they will move to Canada, at least -- decided that supporting the president during his next term was the best course of action.


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