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In Last Few Days, Brown U. Students Head To N.H. For Obama

This story was written by Isabel Gottlieb, Brown Daily Herald

NORTH HAMPTON, N.H. - Brown University students Harrison Kreisberg '10 and Lise Rahdert '10, armed with a clipboard and covered with Barack Obama stickers, walked down a gravel driveway and knocked on the door of a small blue house. A woman in a Red Sox T-shirt answered, and they asked which presidential candidate she planned on voting for.

"I haven't decided yet," the woman answered while a young girl peered from behind her legs. "That's my project for later today." She had no more questions, she said, and waited patiently for the canvassers to leave her doorstep.

"For me, those door knocks are the most infuriating," said Rahdert, vice president of the Brown Democrats. "If they're not decided, there should be a reason."

But only two days before the presidential election, many people in North Hampton, N.H., still had not decided which candidate they would support. New Hampshire is a swing state and its voters are notorious for their last-minute decisions.

Almost 150 Obama-supporting Rhode Islanders traveled to New Hampshire on Sunday for last-minute Get Out The Vote efforts a drive of campaigning that started Saturday and will last until the closing minutes of polling on Tuesday. That group included about 50 students, many of them first-time canvassers.

The Rhode Island office of the Obama campaign has seen an "unbelievable" number of volunteers throughout the election season, about 1,500, according to Ray Sullivan, state director of the campaign, and many have been students.

"Some of our best interns are from Brown," Sullivan said. "We've got the best volunteers in the world. They give and give, and believe in the change Barack Obama will bring."

Several prominent Rhode Island Democrats came to Hope High School early Sunday morning to send off the canvassers with short speeches, including Sen. Jack Reed, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Attorney General Patrick Lynch '87 and Rep. Patrick Kennedy.

The Obama campaign chartered three buses for Sunday's trip north, but the student turnout was largely due to the efforts of the Brown Democrats, Brown Students for Barack Obama and Rhode Island College Democrats. Gabe Kussin '09, head of Rhode Island College Democrats, said the organization has been using "every tool" to get students to volunteer, including Facebook events and messages, table slips, e-mails, phone calls and personal interaction.

Kussin said this was his fourth weekend going to New Hampshire and that the number of volunteers keeps growing.

Students have also been volunteering at the Obama campaign office by spending late nights "phone-banking," calling undecided voters in New Hampshire as well as in western states, like Montana, which have close races.

One man Kreisberg and Rahdert met while going door to door barely paused while mowing his lawn to say four canvassers had already stopped by his house last week.

"That's how you get people to the polls," Kreisberg said as he left the driveway. "The last four days is really when the campaign is won or lost."

Canvassing in New Hampshire is unique, many volunteers said, because the state sees so much political activism in the run-up to an election.

"People in New Hampshire take (politics) very seriously," said Kreisberg. "In New Hampshire, this is their sport. Massachusetts has basketball and hockey. New Hampshire has politics."

"New Hampshire is different," Herald Opinions Columnist Jeremy Feigenbaum '11 said. "They welcome canvassing. They're used to and like the attention."

Most of the canvassers said they felt compelled to volunteer this weekend, even if they had never canvassed before. "This is a really hstoric election, and I felt I'd regret it if I didn't (volunteer)," Laura McLellan '12 said.

"I couldn't live with Obama losing on Tuesday if I didn't do something about it."

"I can't vote yet and it drives me crazy," said Sophie Siegel-Warren, a high school senior from Cranston, R.I. "I'm a huge Obama supporter and have been since the beginning of the primaries. ... I feel very strongly that we have to win."

Alexander Boutelle '05, who now works as a field organizer in New Hampshire, addressed students as they departed.

"Your performance today makes me proud to be a Brown alum. It shows that creativity, enthusiasm and social consciousness are still coming out of the university."

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