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newtEvery four years, the Democratic and Republican Parties gear up to face each other in an always-heated race for the presidency. The 2012 elections are no different.

The Republican Party is in the midst of preparing for the primaries, but it currently remains very unclear who will be attempting to remove President Obama from the White House.

“This is going to be a long Republican primary season and it is sure to produce more dirty laundry than any fraternity row in the country,” said Josh Berman, who studied political science at Emory University and now writes his own political blog, Berman Briefing.

According to USA TODAY’s Presidential Poll Tracker, Newt Gringrich, Mitt Romney, and Ron Paul are the GOP front-runners.

What remains to be seen is whether or not college students will play as large a role in the 2012 elections as they did in 2008 — a groundbreaking election that saw the third-highest showing of young voters in the country’s history.

“Will it be the same influence? Who knows,” said Gideon Porter, a political science major at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. “But college students will definitely have a large influence in 2012.”

Berman agrees.

“Students will undoubtedly play a role in 2012 because they are driven to elect President Obama to a second term,” Berman said.

Those who supported Obama in 2008 have grown up in the last four years, and their needs have shifted. In 2008, students were motivated by their desire for change. Now, students seem to be more concerned with having a job when they graduate.

“The 2012 election is all about jobs and what direction we want the country to go in,” Porter said. “College students graduate with a lot of debt, so we need jobs right away to start paying back that debt.”

George Washington University junior Michelle Hayon, who identifies herself as a Republican, said that the current unemployment rate is one of the key issues that will influence her vote.

“I’m concerned, because I always thought the accounting department was more stable because accountants are always in demand,” Hayon — who, yes, is an accounting major — said. “However, my older friends that have graduated with CPA degrees are having a hard time finding well paid jobs. I’m at a well-respected private institution and a few years ago, that almost guaranteed having a job upon graduation. Now, it certainly doesn’t, and that’s an issue and a major concern.”

Aside from the high unemployment rate, the most important issues for Hayon are the candidates’ views on Israel and taxes.

The 2012 election will address some very serious, controversial issues, from the economy and health care to gay marriage and abortion.

“For the direction of the country, do we want to be a country that invests in our people whether in say, health care, or do we want to be a country that leaves many people behind and left out?” Porter asked. “Do we want to be a country that begins to close the huge gap between the one percent and the rest of us, or do we want more tax cuts for the rich? Do we believe in fighting climate change or are we a country that denies climate change? In other words, what type of country do we want to be in the 21st century?”

 To view the original post, please visit USA TODAY College
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