After Years of Turning Up Noses, College Conservatives Break Silence and Endorse Trump

‘Under a Biden presidency, who is really running the country?’ the Harvard Republican Club asks.

AP/Gerald Herbert
President Trump listens to questions during debate with President Biden June 27, 2024 in Atlanta. AP/Gerald Herbert

More and more college Republicans, once reluctant or refusing to support President Trump, are coming out and endorsing the 45th president for re-election as the tide of voter sentiment turns further against President Biden. 

Mr. Biden has for months struggled to excite young voters, and the dissatisfaction is growing amid mounting questions over his mental capabilities following the presidential debate. 

“Donald Trump is the only candidate with the mental capacity to run our country,” the Harvard Republican Club asserted in a six-page endorsement last week. Following the debate last week, “Millions of Americans — including this Board — are left wondering: under a Biden presidency, who is really running the country?”

The club voted against endorsing Trump in 2016 — the first time ever that it didn’t endorse the Republican presidential candidate — and only lightly endorsed him in 2020, holding some reservations over his policy stances. Now, though, it has moved to embrace the GOP establishment in supporting him and rebuking Mr. Biden. 

The College Republicans of America already endorsed Trump in January, ahead of the Iowa Caucuses. “Across our 150 chapters the only endorsed presidential candidate is Donald Trump,” the communications director of the CRA, Dominick Buehler, tells the Sun. “Not a single chapter objected to CRA’s national endorsement of the former president earlier this year.”

The former president has also garnered support from organizations like the Ohio College Republican Federation, which represents thousands of students from schools across the state. Notre Dame College Republicans voted unanimously to endorse Trump in February, asserting in a statement after two presidential hopefuls, Governor DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy, dropped out of the race that “President Trump is the best candidate to lead the Party’s ticket forward and defeat Joe Biden in September.”

At Harvard, students across the political aisle were quick to comment on the damning performance of Mr. Biden in last week’s debate. In the Harvard-exclusive chat room of an anonymous online forum, SideChat, one user wrote, “I’m voting Biden but I’m literally watching a zombie.” Another wrote, “Dude I physically can’t watch.”

For those who get much of their news from social media, where Mr. Biden’s speeches are often cut up into short, edited video snippets, the live 90-minute debate was eye-opening. “This is for many voters their first confrontation with the extent of the president’s cognitive decline,” a Harvard student from the class of 2022 and a former member of the Harvard Republican Club, Patrick Adolphus, tells the Sun. 

The sentiment among Harvard conservatives — who make up 8.4 percent of the freshman class, according to a survey in September — could signal where other Republican coalitions at left-of-center universities are headed, after many declined to outwardly support Trump in 2020. 

“Perhaps it’s because they are now getting tired of suppressing their true opinions,” the president of the Harvard Republicans Club, Michael Oved, tells the Sun. “And a realization that unless they speak up now, the country will end up irreparably damaged because of the current policies.”

The disillusionment of university students toward Mr. Biden reflects the feelings of young voters across the political aisle. 

“I can’t speak for all young people, but I think some feel exasperated with Biden especially after his continued shipments of arms to Israel,” a Harvard student from the class of 2021, Anthony Alvarez, tells the Sun. He says that he’s “been in the Biden camp since day 1,” yet the president’s troubling performance in the debate prompted him to think about alternative Democratic candidates. “From an electability standpoint, it did make me like Biden less.”

A Harvard Caps/Harris poll taken after the debate finds that Americans’ views of both the Democratic and Republican parties are plummeting. Yet while 47 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds “approve of the job Trump did as president,” 41 percent of them currently approve of Mr. Biden. 

Beyond the question of Mr. Biden’s age and competency, young voters have for months taken issue with the president’s handling of the war in Gaza, the rising cost of living, and the struggles to roll out a new student loan forgiveness plan — an issue top of mind for college graduates, as the average debt for a four-year bachelor’s degree has soared to $34,700.

Mr. Oved ventures that “youth may finally be putting policy above media-portrayed personality. And thus, even if you may not like President Trump personally, there is a recognition that his policies have been proven to be better for Americans.”

Critics of Mr. Biden, or at least the board of the Harvard Republican Club, point to the job creation and wage growth that took place during Trump’s tenure, as well as his tax cuts, tough immigration policies, and “America First” foreign policy. They also applaud his conservative reshaping of the American judiciary. “We look forward to seeing him back in the White House,” the nation’s oldest collegiate Republican organization says, “where he can Make America Great Again.”

The New York Sun

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