By Michelle Davey
Students chat and mingle as the DJ plays some popular tunes. The fourth floor of Baker Center is packed, and students maneuver their way through the crowd to get to the free pizza, soda and cookies. Some are wearing Obama stickers; others carry McCain signs. Most sport "I voted today" stickers.
Despite the commotion, freshman Carina Turner is glued to one of the three muted, big-screen televisions tuned to FOX news coverage of the primary election results. "I'm watching pretty closely," she says, enjoying the chance to mingle. "It's important to meet people, even if you don't agree with their opinions."
Planned by FOX and ThePalestra.com, Tuesday night's election watch party in Baker drew students from all along the political spectrum. "I like this event because they are not biased; everyone comes, everyone watches and everyone has a good time," Turner says.
Palestra staffers were in Baker all day, passing out free cotton candy and popcorn and encouraging students to get out and vote. Reporters interviewed students throughout the party, which was streamed live on ThePalestra.com, FOXnews.com and Facebook.
Ohio University senior Lynn Walsh, a reporter for The Palestra, could not have been more excited to see her university getting national coverage. When her boss sent out an e-mail asking about great college campuses in Ohio, Walsh sent her response immediately: Ohio University.
The students have not disappointed, showing they are interested and involved in the election process, Walsh says. "There's a buzz on campus that I've never seen before," she observes.
And that buzz brought many students to Baker, including a sleeping giant around campus lately -- the Republican contingent.
Sophomore Nathan Williams says the fact Ohio University, seen by many as a liberal campus, has been getting national coverage (including live broadcasts by FOX & Friends Tuesday and today) has energized student Republicans.
Williams and his GOP buddies were decked out in T-shirts bearing a familiar phrase -- but with a twist. The print on their red shirts read, "Conservative? Fine by me."
Fellow Republican and senior Chelsie Wollett is surprised but pleased to see fellow Republicans in the crowd.
"I was amazed. I didn't expect to see any red shirts tonight," says Wollett, a John McCain supporter who had more to be excited than most of those present. "(McCain) won the day! He's the shoo-in now."
The national coverage by FOX makes this election season even better in Williams' eyes. "It's awesome," he says. "FOX is one of the only news networks that shows both sides."
Senior Sarah Baker disagrees, finding it strange that FOX would pick Athens. "FOX says they're fair and balanced, but everyone knows they lean toward the conservative side -- and Athens is more liberal," she says.
By 8 p.m., less than 1 percent of Ohio precincts are reporting, and the Democrats' race is tight. Baker, a supporter of Barack Obama, thinks the suspense between her candidate and contender Hilary Clinton is exciting. "It honestly doesn't matter who wins," she says, "as long as it's a Democrat."
Freshman Chris Brown, who voted for Clinton, sees it differently. "I think it's scary! (Clinton) was supposed to have a lead in Ohio," he says.
But by 10 p.m., with 31 percent of Ohio precincts reporting, Clinton had 57 percent of the vote, compared to Obama's 41 percent. Erica Boehnlein, a senior, is pleased. "I voted for her and I hope she wins," she says. "Her views on LGBT rights and women's choice are what are most important to me."
Obama supporters were not quite as happy -- but remained hopeful about the rest of the election season. "I'm very disappointed in my state," says Tiffany Bowden, a graduate student. "It's been a tight race throughout, but I don't think Hillary can win the delegate count."
No matter their candidate, Tuesday's primary party helped pique student interest in the election, says senior Kiley O'Laughlin, who was there to volunteer for Rock the Vote through her coed service fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega. She was encouraging students to sign up for e-mail and text messages from the non-partisan group about election-related events happening in the area.
"If you start voting now, you will continue to vote your whole life," O'Laughlin says. "It's your duty to your country."