Christie advisers bank on students to aid campaign


Political strategist for Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie's campaign Mike DuHaime and Executive Director of the New Jersey Republican Party Dan Centenillo visited student campaign workers for the Christie campaign last night at the Rutgers Student Center on the College Avenue campus.

The group of about 20 campaign workers — made up in part by the College Republicans — were phone banking when the two members of the Christie campaign came by to discuss their importance in the overall strategy for the gubernatorial election.

"We reach out to everybody who has registered and has a history of voting," DuHaime said. "We use a variety of ways — phone banks, door to door — [and] we're very active on Facebook, and we try to utilize new media more than any other Republican campaign has. There is no one way to do it — it's a combination."

Phone banking involves calling voters to gauge who they support in the Nov. 3 gubernatorial election.

They talk to voters about topics such as brighter days with Christie, increasing higher education, cutting taxes, keeping business in New Jersey and creating more jobs, DuHaime said.

He spoke about the national attention being paid to the state election.

"New Jersey is a big state in terms of population, but I think that this is more about New Jersey," DuHaime said. "A lot of people want to figure out what this means nationally."

Being a big state, people are watching, and there are only two governors' races this year, he said.

"There is a disproportionate amount of attention being paid to it, but it's mostly about trying to figure out what's going on here," he said.

Centenillo, who formerly worked for the campaigns of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, R-Calif., and former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass., spoke about the strategy to win New Jersey.

"In New Jersey, you have to learn to campaign all over again because it's like no other state," Centenillo said. "The strategy for us is to monopolize the energy that's out there. We've been seeing volunteers come into our campaign that are Democrats and Independents as well."

It is less about party lines and more about policy, he said. They had a lot of Democrat and Independent volunteers coming to work for them.

"A lot of people like Chris' reputation as a crime-fighter and corruption buster, but then they don't like Corzine, and it makes for a perfect storm," Centenillo said.

The campaigns used to be about where people lived and engaging voters in regions rather than individual voters, but now it is more focused, he said. The people they target are people who either do not like Corzine or are interested in Christie.

"We engage in micro-targeting," Centenillo said. "Now, it's more about figuring out what they do, what they like, like if they are buying Coors Light, they're Republican; if they're buying tofu, they're Democrats."

The makeup of party lines is somewhat even when you look at the breakdowns that micro-targeters give the campaign, he said. There is a lot of variety in who to look for, and Spanish scripts are available to phone bankers as well.

The students call Middlesex County citizens to get their support, said State Chair for the Youth Coalition Tali Rasis. These efforts will also help them during "Get Out the Vote," which will happen in a few weeks.

"The student coalition [is] doing a lot of grassroots effort, making calls to people and talking about Christie, putting up lawn signs, going to different events and rallying for Chris," said Rasis, a School of Arts and Sciences junior.

She said they are in the stages of planning a rally, but nothing is concrete yet.

The phone bankers are in competition with Seton Hall University and Richard Stockton University to see who will get the most phone calls, she said. This week, Rutgers is winning, but this might change.

Students were excited to see the members of the campaign, said President of the College Republicans Ron Holden.

"I've been in [DuHaime's] class, and he teaches us that it's extremely important to volunteer," said Holden, a Rutgers College senior. "He came out here, and he is motivating our guys to make the phone calls for the Christie campaign. It's extremely important as this race tightens [and] we make sure we get out as many people as we can to vote for Chris Christie."

DuHaime teaches a political science class on Douglass campus together with Corzine '09 Campaign Manager and Deputy Chief of Staff Maggie Moran.

"I have a soft spot for Rutgers, because I'm an alum," DuHaime said. "I also teach here, and that's one of the reasons I wanted to come by tonight and thank all the students in my class who are working here to phone bank."

It is very effective to phone bank, DuHaime said. Volunteers may not necessarily see its value, but when they're more involved and see the details of the campaign, it becomes easier to appreciate its importance, he said.

"Christie's going to win," he said. "Chris Christie offers change that New Jersey needs, and I think he offers promise to people to find jobs, to make the state a better place again, which have been unfriendly to taxpayers and made it harder to find jobs."

 


Cagri Ozuturk

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