U groups prepare for Obama's campaign
Student groups around campus are preparing to start a year of campaigning and events in support of President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.
As the Republican Party continues the process of debating, voting for and eventually selecting a nominee, local volunteers are preparing to engage the campus community on Obama’s behalf.
University of Minnesota students, known for their low voter turnout and political apathy, are a specific target for Obama volunteers in 2012. Students groups hope to engage their peers in order to get them more involved in the months leading up to November.
The College Democrats at the University of Minnesota and Students for Obama are two groups that are working together to involve students in the political process while supporting Obama’s campaign.
On Tuesday, College Democrats and Students for Obama will meet at Tony’s Diner in Dinkytown to have a viewing party for Obama’s State of the Union address. Laura Pratt, co-chairwoman of Students for Obama, said they are expecting about 50 people to attend.
The group is working to have a campus kickoff in February and a concert this fall.
“We are trying to get students activated in whatever ways they like,” Pratt said.
Jeremy Reichenberger, president of the College Democrats, hopes to “get the word out about why Obama would be the best choice for students and what he has in terms of policy that affects students.”
According to a 2008 CNN exit poll, 66 percent of voters ages 18-24 voted for Obama, while only 32 percent of voters the same age cast their ballot for Republican nominee John McCain. Support from college-aged students played a large role in Obama’s victory.
However, Larry Jacobs, professor with the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University, said the excitement surrounding Obama’s re-election bid is not as strong as in 2008. While Obama has a large advantage over any Republican with students, some have lost enthusiasm over the past three years, he said.
Jacobs said Obama’s high expectations and a lack of tangible effects in students’ lives have caused some to drift back into a state of indifference.
Despite this outlook, organizers are staying hopeful.
“Students realize that nobody is perfect, and the president is a person,” said Pratt.
Sarah Clarke, an organizer with Organizing for America and an adviser to Students for Obama, said there is reason to believe students are still excited about the president. Clarke said that 40 students, none of whom had voted in 2008, showed up at a recent campus kickoff at Macalester College, even with bad weather and a location change.
Volunteers hope not only to engage students on campus, but to encourage them to actually cast a ballot. OFA spokesperson Kristin Sosanie said that the groups hope to get people to the polls by encouraging them to vote and providing them with information like their polling location.
“If you get students out to vote, they are going to make an enormous difference,” Pratt said. “Getting students out is basically the only thing you have to do. So what we’re trying to do is just remind them to do that.”
Reichenberger thinks students are going to have a huge impact just as they did in 2008 and that they could be a deciding factor.
And to get re-elected, Obama will need student support, Jacobs said.
But the election season should prove to be a tough one for Obama. A recent Gallup poll showed Obama had an average approval rating of 44 percent in 2011, the lowest for a third year in office in recent decades.
And according to a recent national telephone survey by Rasmussen Reports, 47 percent of likely voters would support a generic Republican candidate if the election were held today, as opposed to 42 percent supporting Obama.
“Today the novelty … the historical uniqueness of the Obama ‘08 campaign has worn off a bit; so in that sense the Obama campaign is not as new, not as exciting as it was in ,” said Paul Goren, an associate professor in the University’s political science department.
“Maybe not to the extent of 2008, but I still think Obama will do well among this group.”