A University of South Florida St. Petersburg political science class is taking off Saturday for the Granite State, where students will be taking part in presidential campaigns ahead of New Hampshire's first in the nation primary election.
The twenty-three students in the course, titled "The Road to the White House," will work for seven different candidates in both major parties in the days leading up to the February 9 primary.
Professor Judithanne Scourfield McLauchlan said they'll get to see just how much work goes into a campaign for the nation's highest office.
"They're going to have a real experience with grassroots organizing, with retail politics, they'll see the candidates at diners and town hall meetings and house parties and answering tough questions from voters," she said. "It's a very, very different animal from Florida campaigns, which tend to be paid media focus, advertising on television. This is going to be a real opportunity for them see a grassroots campaign."
The twenty-three students will take on internships with seven different campaigns, doing tasks like phone bank calls and holding signs at rallies and outside polling places.
In addition, they'll meet with political operatives from New Hampshire and across the country and have classes to discuss their experiences.
Scourfield McLauchlan, who brought similar classes to New Hampshire in 2004 and 2008 (the 2012 class stayed home to work at the GOP Convention in Tampa), said the field experience will top anything the students could learn in the classroom.
"I've worked on five presidential primaries in New Hampshire, I've worked in the White House, I can talk to them about what it's like and of course they're reading works in scholarly literature about presidential campaigns," she said. "But there's really going to be nothing like actually being in New Hampshire before the first in the nation primary and all they're going to experience."
The class is made up of underclass-level students from USF's Tampa and St. Petersburg campuses.
Thirteen will work for Democratic candidates: seven for Bernie Sanders, five for Hillary Clinton and one for Martin O'Malley.
Ten will campaign for Republican candidates: five for Marco Rubio, two for Jeb Bush, two for Ted Cruz and one for Donald Trump.
In addition, the class is blend of majors, not just political science.
Senior Victor Sims, who's volunteering for the Clinton campaign, said talking to potential voters should help him as he pursues a degree in psychology.
"Whenever I'm talking about Hillary Clinton, how have I captivated their (potential voters) interest in wanting to know more about her and her campaign specifically," Sims said. "So I think that's going to be a cool part, learning how the political process works and how to look at body language and know if I've engaged them enough to want to vote for her."
Students will be able to continue volunteering for their candidates when they return home in advance of the Florida primary election March 15.
You can follow the students on the campaign through their blogs and the class' website. I'll also be joining the group in New Hampshire in the final days before the primary. We'll have more of their story on upcoming University Beat reports on WUSF 89.7 and WUSF TV, as well as on Florida Matters.
You can also see University Beat reports on the 2012 and 2008 classes below.