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2024 Road to the White House class.

Students to work on campaign trail for Road to the White House course

By Matthew Cimitile, University Communications and Marketing

A group of 24 USF students will soon embark for South Carolina to experience firsthand what it’s like to work on the campaign trail.

As part of the Road to the White House 2024 course, students are participating in a 10-day internship working for the Republican presidential campaigns of Donald J. Trump and Nikki Haley as well as Democratic state-wide campaigns leading up to the South Carolina primary on February 25. While there, students canvass, phone bank and see how campaigns are run during a critical juncture of the election cycle.

“Students will get to see retail politics up close while learning about grassroots organizing and see how presidential candidates interact with voters,” said Judithanne Scourfield McLauchlan, a USF St. Petersburg professor of Political Science who teaches the course. “Just by getting a chance to be there and take part, they will learn about elections and the excitement that comes with working on a presidential campaign.” 

This is the sixth Road to the White House course but the first to visit South Carolina. In previous election cycles, the class traveled to New Hampshire. 

“South Carolina is very different from New Hampshire, and much bigger, meaning there will be a lot of ground to cover as we crisscross the state from Greenville in the northwest to Charleston in the southeast for campaign activities,” McLauchlan said. “In addition, when we arrive, early voting will be underway, giving students a different look at campaign strategy.”

The South Carolina internship is paired with a semester-long course about the history and politics of presidential campaigns and elections. The class touches on the nominating process, national conventions, voter turnout, campaign finance, the electoral college and more. 

Some of the students will work directly for the Trump and Haley campaigns, while the rest will assist the Democratic Party and help with statewide elections and building party support. Days are structured around morning field trips with guest speakers to places such as the South Carolina State House in Columbia, followed by campaign work in the afternoons and evenings.

For Steven Brown, who has worked on congressional campaigns in the past, the chance to get directly involved in a presidential election was enticing.

“It’s an amazing opportunity. The connections you can make on the campaign trail and use it as a ladder for your future are endless,” said Brown, a senior majoring in Political Science.

The student veteran also saw the internship as another chance to serve, even if it meant working 16 hours a day for 10 days straight.

“It’s going to be a grind, but I believe in a life of service,” said Brown, who will join a veteran outreach coalition with the Trump campaign during the internship. “It will be rewarding, especially if you can make an impression on the people you get to work with.”

Abigail Sanders credits her parents for her love of politics and being politically engaged. She saw Road to the White House as a chance to further her involvement in the upcoming election while helping to figure out the type of law to study upon graduating.

“I’m hoping to see if this experience working directly in the presidential election will make me want to work more on domestic issues like election law or if I’d prefer something more international, such as focusing on human rights, at law school” said Sanders, a junior double majoring in Political Science and International Studies who will intern with the South Carolina Democratic Party. 

The Road to the White House class will depart for South Carolina from USF St. Petersburg on the morning of Friday, Feb. 16 and return on Sunday, Feb. 25. To learn more and follow along on their journey, tune into the class blog here.

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