GOP hopeful Mitt Romney’s supporters rallied in Michigan on Tuesday, barely giving him the victory over former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.
Rep. Ron Paul and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich trailed in third and fourth.
Not so at Hillsdale College.
Over 50 percent of the 184 students polled at Hillsdale College said they supported Ron Paul, while he received less than 12 percent of the vote in Michigan’s primary.
Sophomore Spencer Amaral said he believes that so many students support Paul because he understands and expresses the principles taught at Hillsdale.
“We should understand why he’s the best candidate and the best statesman,” Amaral said.
“He is the only one we should support now that we know what we know.”
Romney supporter sophomore Michael Koziara, however, believes saying Hillsdale students should support a particular candidate is “presumptuous” and that all of the Republican candidates are proponents of a limited, Constitutional government.
“Keep in mind,” Koziara said, “that Hillsdale’s own Dr. Wolfram has voiced support for Gov. Romney because of Mitt’s strong understanding of free-market economics and business.”
Some students are concerned that Paul supporters will hamper the Republican party. Koziara worries that, if Paul loses the primary, some staunch Paul supporters will detract from the support of the GOP presidential candidate in the fall.
“I’m fearful of a repeat of history,” Koziara said. “The general election in 2000 was so close that — had liberal votes for third parties like the Green Party gone to Gore as they otherwise would [have] — Gore would have won Florida and the presidency.”
Second to Paul, Santorum received about one-fourth of the support from students. Sopho- mores Melika Willoughby and Brianna Walden actively support Santorum because of what they consider his proven leadership with social issues and strong understanding of economics.
“I was a Santorum fan back before it was cool,” Walden said with a laugh.
“Santorum is the only candidate that articulates principled beliefs without simply slamming Obama or toeing the party line. He made me sit up and listen,” Willoughby said. “Santorum is able to articulate the political philosophy and reasons why behind the policies he purports.”
Walden chalked up Michigan as a victory for Santorum — though Romney technically won — since he received so much of the vote despite Romney’s close ties here.
“It would have been nice if he had won,” Walden said. “But Santorum was outspent six to one. It’s amazing he did so well in a state [Romney] grew up in.”
Junior Katy Bachelder disagreed because she believes Romney won the media.
“The headline is that Mitt won. The delegate technicality is not as important because Santorum lost the news cycle,” Bachelder said.
In stark contrast to Romney’s 41 percent of Michigan voters, only nine of the 184 students expressed support for the former governor of Massachusetts. But student supporters Koziara and Bachelder believe that Romney could beat Obama in the general election.
“There is no other candidate with as much business experience,” Koziara said. “I think he has the ability to turn the economy around with a win in November.”
Bachelder said that Romney’s increasing conservatism is positive in response to the accusation that Romney “flip-flops.”
“When someone comes closer to what I believe, I consider it a victory, not something worth assailing,” she said. “That Mitt moved to the right is an asset, not a liability.”
Walden, though, remains unconvinced that Romney truly upholds conservative values.
“If we want to elect a candidate to beat Obama, why would we nominate someone like Obama? We should go with someone who has a complete contrast to Obama,” Walden said.
Romney supporters expressed concern with Santorum’s attempts to attract Democrats.
“I was concerned with Santorum and his last-minute tactics,” Koziara said. “Santorum is trying to run as the ‘true’ conservative, and his move to attract liberal votes may bite him in the long run.”
Bachelder said that Republicans should take the Democrats voting for Santorum as warning signs.
“The Democrats that are voting for Santorum demonstrate that they are scared of Romney. The Democrats are trying to get the Republican party to play into the hands of chaos,” Bachelder said. “Santorum supporters shouldn’t be thrilled about it.”
Walden considers both candidates viable opponents to Obama, though.
Hillsdale students remained consistent with Michigan trends towards Newt Gingrich. Only four of those polled expressed support for Gingrich.
Unlike the more political students on campus, 31 students responded as either non-political or undecided. A few wrote in names, from Gary Johnson to John F. Kennedy to Louis the XIV.
“I’m supporting Elizabeth II,” junior Richard Norris said.