Twenty-four states will either have a primary election or a caucus on Tuesday, making it the most influential political day in United States history. More than 52 percent of all Democratic delegates and 41 percent of all Republican delegates will be decided on Tuesday.
Many states, including New Jersey, pushed their primaries from June to February in order to insure that their votes truly counted in determining the candidates for President.
At Weehawken's Roosevelt School, the fourth and sixth grade students held their own Presidential primaries and caucuses Thursday, stumping for their respective candidates before heading to an online voting procedure instituted by Scholastic.com.
The students were definitely aware of the primary and caucus procedure, which was quite remarkable considering that most of the students are a good seven or so years away from heading to the voting booths themselves.
But they all certainly had opinions about their respective candidates, holding campaign signs and pictures of the top contenders through the caucus process.
The students even taught this reporter covering the event something - that there are 147 Democratic delegates from New Jersey at stake and 52 Republican. The first Democratic candidate to collect 2,025 delegates and the first Republican to reach 1,191 delegates will be the nominees for the November election.
Showing their support
Sixth grader Kara Keating was carrying a campaign sign for Sen. Barack Obama.
"I'm for Obama because he wants children throughout the United States to get a better education," Keating said.
Fellow sixth grader Emily Chong is supporting Sen. Hillary Clinton.
"She can change the course of history in the United States by becoming the first female President," Chong said. "She's also going to make a big difference when it comes to establishing health insurance for everyone. She's a tough woman."
Classmate Elizabeth Tejada is supporting Republican frontrunner Sen. John McCain.
"I think John McCain has the most experience of anyone else and that's a huge plus," Tejada said.
Although former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani announced last week that he was dropping out of the race for President and throwing his support behind McCain, the students at Roosevelt still considered "America's Mayor" to be in the hunt.
"I'm supporting Rudy because he would do a good job on cracking down on our country's security," young supporter Alex Santana said. "He wants to have better gun control and we can't have our people being able to buy guns."
Unfortunately, there were no supporters for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney or former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who still remain in the race for the Republican nomination.
Former Sen. John Edwards, who announced last week that he was also dropping out of the race, received a major snub from the Weehawken youngsters.
There was only room for so many candidates in the Roosevelt caucuses.
Among the fourth graders, there was also mixed support.
"I'm for John McCain, because he's been serving this country for a long time," said Jerry Tejada. "He's just a good person."
Nine-year-old Michaela Cruciani is supporting Obama.
"He wants better education and that's important," Cruciani said.
Nine-year-old Lukas Stever is a Hillary fan, but mainly because of her husband, the former President.
"I just like the Clinton family," Stever said. "If it was not for Bill Clinton being President, my brother would have died because he needed so many surgeries."
Apparently universal health insurance is an issue even with the young.
A lot of the fourth graders were avid Obama supporters, citing education and health reform.
Nine-year-old Ally Tierney said that she enjoyed the campaigning and the caucuses, because it helped her learn more about the process.
"I now know how the primaries and caucuses work," Tierney said. "It was a lot of fun."
After they heard all the campaign promises and lingo, the students went into technology teacher Brian Calligy's lab and voted for their respective candidates online.
While their individual class results were not tabulated, they were informed how fellow students in New Jersey were voting.
Among the Democrats, Obama was in front. The leading vote getter among New Jersey school children on the Republican side? Surprisingly, it was Mike Huckabee.
The voting will continue online by Scholastic.com through Monday.
But now, the students of Roosevelt can watch the proceedings of "Super Duper Tuesday" and have a better understanding of what was taking place. They will also return to their respective voting booths in November to vote in the Presidential election, which they've done in the last two prior elections in 2000 and 2004.
"There are so many primaries and caucuses, but they understand now what makes it all work," said Jon Hammer, a seventh grade academically talented teacher who helped coordinate the caucuses and primaries with Calligy. "They can sit down with their parents and tell them who they're voting for. I think the parents will be surprised and impressed with how much they know."
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at either OGSMAR@aol.com or email@example.com