Traditionally, Penn State has played host to a multitude of political figures, ranging from candidates running for state and national office, to sitting presidents themselves.
In fact, every president since Dwight D. Eisenhower has visited the university, excluding only Ronald Reagan.
In the 2008 primary election, President Barack Obama visited the campus to give a speech to nearly 20,000 onlookers in an effort to win the student vote.
The president again visited the campus in 2011 to speak with students and faculty about the importance of energy research, and to tour some university facilities devoted to conducting these studies.
Yet, this election season, the campus has been strangely void of any political guests. There have been a number of lesser-known figures that have traveled to State College to discuss the election with students, most notably former GOP candidate Herman Cain.
However, neither of the two current presidential candidates have made much of an effort to court Penn State’s large undergraduate student body this year, despite traveling to a number of other college campuses.
Michael Berkman, professor and director of undergraduate studies with Penn State’s Department of Political Science said he is not surprised by the lack of attention.
“Neither of the candidates view Pennsylvania as in play anymore, and really it hasn’t been for a majority of this election,” Berkman said. “Thus, there really is little reason for them to come here.”
Berkman said the idea that Pennsylvania remains a swing state is outdated, and the state has voted Democratic in most of the elections in recent memory, which does not encourage much competition within its borders.
Additionally, Berkman said most of the nations 18 to 24 aged population still backs Obama, and so the president has not had to work as hard to win their votes this November.
“I would be surprised, given the general progressivism of the nations youth and the increasing conservatism of the Republican Party, if the Romney campaign was able to capture a majority of the younger demographic in the election,” Berkman said.
Some Penn State students concur with this frame of mind, and understand the prerogative that both candidates have to campaign elsewhere.
Cole Lennon (sophomore-economics) said the race in Pennsylvania hasn’t been close enough for the candidates to make an appearance.
“Since each campaign has a priority to acquire as many electoral votes as possible, the likelihood of a candidate spending their time here is extremely diminished,” Lennon said.
Still, there remains plenty of students at Penn State who would enjoy such a visit.
Thomas Shutt (junior-economics and French) said he would love to see a candidate come to speak on campus.
“I mean I wish I could get the opportunity to hear one of them speak,” Shutt said. “But I definitely understand that there are other, more important things, for them to do in the race right now.”