By James Duffy, deputy sports editor
For this year’s Super Tuesday on March 1, Massachusetts will be one of 15 states and territories that will open their polls and cast votes on who they believe should be the nominee for president from the Democratic and Republican parties.
Despite a lack of candidates campaigning in the Bay State, Massachusetts still holds an important place in this year’s election, especially as rogue candidates like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders continue to rise in the polls.
On the Democratic side, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. has been rising in polls for months and has pulled even with long-time front runner Hillary Clinton in Massachusetts. According to the Emerson College Polling Society, each candidate has 46 percent of the vote, with 5 percent still undecided.
“There’s a fair amount of support for both sides,” Northeastern Professor Michael Dukakis said.
The former Massachusetts governor and 1988 Democratic presidential candidate, who supports Clinton, admits that both Democrats and Republicans have a lot at stake in the commonwealth.
“For one thing, if a New Englander can’t win in New England, he won’t win anywhere,” he said of Sanders. “Hillary has to be able to win this one decisively, but neither will have an easy time.”
In Dukakis’ eyes, the economy is the single most important issue in the election, a factor he believes has led to Sanders’ rise in the polls. Sanders’ policy of making public college free and helping lower student debts would help boost the economy, he said.
“This is a real burden on our economic future if young people are coming out of school with that kind of debt,” Dukakis said.
In addition to Sanders’ appeal to college students, Dukakis believes that Sanders’ larger economic arguments have drawn mass appeal.
“You’ve got a situation where there are a relatively small amount of people in this country with huge amounts of money,” Dukakis said. “People aren’t going to tolerate that forever.”
For Eric Spencer, the president of NU Students for Bernie and a senior chemical engineering major, key issues include Sanders’ stances on a higher minimum wage, universal health care and campaign finance reform, but all of his policies play into a bigger picture.
“I’m a believer in political revolution,” Spencer said.
Sanders, a self-proclaimed democratic socialist, has based much of his campaign on the idea of revolution.
“I think [being a democratic socialist] is a pro for a political revolution, and it’s a necessity at this time,” Spencer said. “We can’t just have one brand of politics. There needs to be other terms than Democrat and Republican.”
As far as Sanders’ opponent, Spencer had issues with Clinton’s transparency, saying she doesn’t come across as honest or genuine.
“It’s hard to pin down exactly where she stands on issues,” he said of the former Secretary of State. “I don’t want that in a candidate, I want to know where they are.”
NU Students for Bernie has spent the past few weeks ramping up their efforts to raise support and awareness for Sanders. The organization has focused on canvassing in recent weeks and is currently working with Socialist Alternative, a group that has set up rallies for Sanders across the state.
“I’ve run across very few people that don’t like Sanders,” said Spencer, who has actively helped with canvassing. “From what I’ve found in Mission Hill, mostly everyone is for Sanders.”
Spencer is still unsure of how the primary will play out in the state, as he believes that Clinton’s method of campaigning still works better at drawing voters.
Sanders’ support base is flooded with younger citizens, and thus social media has become a major platform for his campaign.
“The older generation is more used to Clinton’s campaigning, so it’s no surprise to me that she continues to do well,” he said. “It does seem like the tide is turning, and I do think it’ll change over time.
For the Republicans, Donald Trump claimed three straight victories in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada and is poised to fare very well on Super Tuesday, especially in Massachusetts.
“Apparently [Trump] has a great amount of strength in the state,” Dukakis said, alluding to a poll conducted by Emerson College that showed Trump drawing 50 percent of likely Republican voters.
Dukakis chalked up Trump’s success to a changing composition of the Massachusetts Republican Party.
“Historically, Massachusetts Republicans are a lot more like Charlie Baker, moderates,” he said. “Most of those folks, however, have left the Republican Party.”
To Andrew Proctor, a sophomore international business major and member of the Northeastern University College Republicans, Trump stands out from the field as the top contender.
Like Dukakis, Proctor singled out the economy as the most important issue in this election, and believes that Trump’s experience in business makes him a strong candidate. He added that “unrest with the current administration” has played a role in Trump’s success.
“I think Trump is the perfect candidate to represent how the silent majority feels,” Proctor said.
Dukakis has more skepticism of Trump as a viable candidate, but he also does not feel as if the Republicans have a strong alternative.
“I’m no fan of Rubio; I think he’s an empty suit,” Dukakis said. “Cruz won’t win, but I don’t get the sense that he will pull out.”
He went on to question the “staying power” of John Kasich, despite liking the Ohio governor.
Super Tuesday might be the last chance for Republicans to raise a roadblock against Trump, and Proctor knows how important Massachusetts is in that process.
“It would be important for Rubio or Cruz to get a strong showing or to win,” he said. “Probably more beneficial than it would be for Trump.”
Dukakis, too, believes that a candidate needs to emerge to oppose Trump moving forward, a process that could be decided on Tuesday.
“The Republican establishment doesn’t want Trump and it doesn’t want Cruz,” the one-time Democratic nominee said. “So I guess that leaves Rubio.”
Photo courtesy Bracknell Forest Council, Creative Commons