Q&A with Garrett Sweitzer and Max Eden

Though neither Mitt Romney nor Mitch Daniels has officially announced a 2012 presidential bid, both politicians have a leg up on their competition when it comes to college students. Students for Mitt Romney and the Student Initiative to Draft Daniels have already begun their efforts to drum up support for the two possible GOP candidates at America’s institutions of higher education. 

Students for Mitt Romney Chairman Garrett Sweitzer and Student Initiative to Draft Daniels National Director Max Eden recently spoke to The Hill about their respective candidates and what their game plan is for the next presidential race.

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GaRrett Sweitzer, Students for Mitt Romney chairman, Vanderbilt University student

Q: What made you decide to start this group? 

I think the U.S. needs to pick a person in 2012 who has been a business leader and somebody who has gotten time in the private sector, and I just think that out of everybody else in the Republican field, Mitt stands out as a person who has shown a really strong track record of being able to come into situations that are not exactly the greatest … and turned them around into a success.  

Q: Have you met Romney? 

No.

Q: Whom did you support in the 2008 presidential race? 

In 2008, I was kind of an amateur, so to speak, and so I supported [Sen.] John McCain [R-Ariz.] and that wasn’t really because of any solid political philosophy. I was at the beginning of being a political citizen, so to speak, and so I really started to develop a political philosophy of my own in the past few years.

Q: Which other candidates or potential candidates have support at Vanderbilt? 

Unfortunately, Vanderbilt is a pretty apathetic place, and it’s tough to really gauge where the student body is. I would like to think that we’re more of a moderate school in terms of we’ve got kind of an even share of moderate liberals to moderate Republicans. And, of course, we’ve got some people who are very far right and some people who are very far left.

Q: On which college campuses is Romney most popular?

In my conversations with College Republicans, and this is just a very rough feel, the most support has been from the Northeast schools. I have gotten a lot of good feedback from schools in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and I’ve gotten a lot of good support from Utah. 

And, in just speaking to kids, the South is a place where there are a lot of people who are fans of the Mississippi governor [Haley Barbour].

Q: Who do you think will be Romney’s biggest primary competitor? 

I think that if Mitch [Daniels] decides to run, I think that’ll pose the biggest threat to Mitt, because I think those are the two Republicans in terms of fiscal issues who have the most respect.

Q: What other campaigns have you worked on?

The reason why I was led to found Students for Mitt Romney was because, this past summer I founded a PAC [political action committee], the Responsible Youth PAC. So I didn’t work directly on a campaign, but I raise money that gave financial support to four congressional races …

We supported the Connecticut 4th and 5th [congressional districts]; we supported [now-Reps.] Bill Flores [R] in Texas and … Adam Kinzinger [R] in Illinois. 

Q: Are you a part of the Tea Party movement?

No, I would not say that I’m a product of the Tea Party movement. I don’t necessarily like to be labeled as one thing. I think that I find myself to be more of a pragmatist, and so I’m not really strict on the party line, so to speak, and I just think that the Republican Party, in terms of its fiscal policy and the way that it has spoken about our current fiscal situation, is more responsible than the other side. 

Max Eden, Students Initiative to Draft Daniels national director, Yale University student

Q: What made you decide to start this group? 

I was a former Democrat and Obama supporter … and just these past two years, I’ve become more debt-conscious. I was looking for a candidate who seemed serious about the debt and who had a record of actually tackling these issues. Between what Daniels did in office and then the way he talks, he’s the kind of serious candidate we need. 

Q: Have you met Daniels before? 

He spoke to a group of us at [the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC)] for about 45 minutes. It was great; we all expected him to give us a handshake and five minutes, but he gave us 45 minutes of whatever we asked him about.

Q: Which other candidates or potential candidates have support at Yale? 

I haven’t heard of anybody else on the Republican side at this point. I would assume there would be some Romney supporters, but I don’t think a [Mike] Huckabee, a [Tim] Pawlenty or a [Sarah] Palin would have significant support here.

Q: On which college campuses is Daniels most popular? 

The Indiana college campuses are most enthusiastic by far. Almost every college in that state has a chapter at this point.

Q: Who do you think will be Daniels’s biggest primary competitor? 

I think it must be Romney, and it will be just a matter of time; as people get to know Daniels better, they’ll like him better.

Q: What other campaigns have you worked on? 

I worked for a man named Josh Mandel when he was an Ohio state representative, and now he’s Ohio state treasurer. And I worked for Yalies for Obama in 2008.

Q: What other politicians do you support or find interesting? 

I think [New Jersey Gov.] Chris Christie [R] is the most fascinating, because there tends to be a window of opening just before things go over the cliff when you can make major change, and that’s what he seems to be doing. And that’s why I think a lot of people are pro-Christie.

Q: How was your CPAC experience?

It was my first time at CPAC. I didn’t really get too much of a flavor of the conference as a whole because I was running around trying to make sure everything worked logistically. But it was certainly foreign to all of my cultural experiences at this point, just because I grew up in a liberal Democratic family and liberal Democratic town.

Q: Are you a part of the Tea Party movement? 

I think in the sense that my main issue is the debt and reining in government spending, yes. I’m not affiliated with them, but in the sense that they’ve caused an awakening, I identify with that.

Q: What are your professional aspirations? 

In the near term, I want to be a JAG officer in the Marines, so I’m going to go to law school in the next year or two and go to officer candidate class and, upon graduation, hopefully be a Marine.