In an office building tucked away in the nondescript suburb of Falls Church, Va., six NYU students hunkered down around a computer screen for the best all-nighter of their college careers.
Kept company by two constantly working coffee pots, the group labored through the night to produce a four-page list in microscopic print. On those pages was a detailed directory of the precincts key to Barack Obama's victory in yesterday's Virginia primary.
The group was comprised of volunteers from NYU Students for Barack Obama - Mika Rothman, Pat McClellan, Kaitlyn Gosman, Ann Hackett, Ilse Julia Mueller Landsdale and Peter Blaes - who made the trip down to Fairfax County, Va., in anticipation of Tuesday's primary election.
The students were quickly put to work helping manage the influx of volunteers that poured into Virginia over the course of the weekend hoping to work on the campaign. By Saturday night, some members of the group found themselves "turfing," or helping to direct grassroots volunteers by preparing a list of target voters in each precinct.
CAS junior McClellan said that for him, the night exemplified the inspirational spirit of the Obama campaign. "That's commitment, to have out-of-state volunteers stay up all night working. I felt like part of something, we had a sense of camaraderie."
Aside from turfing, members of the group went out into the suburbs of Northern Virginia to canvass, or survey possible voters and give them information about Obama's candidacy.
"That was what resonated with me. When we went out canvassing, nearly everyone we met was voting for Obama," said Rothman, a Steinhardt sophomore who initiated the trip and is the campus coordinator of NYU Students for Barack Obama.
All of the NYU volunteers recognized that they were participating in what could be a transitional moment in the race. Three elections were scheduled Tuesday in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. Of all the "Potomac Primaries," so named because of the swampy river running through all three territories, Virginia was widely expected to be the biggest battleground, with 83 pledged delegates at stake there.
The volunteers knew that were Obama to win Virginia, it would not only give him enough momentum to power through the remaining primaries in February, but they would also give him a lead in the delegate count for the first time since Iowa.
And win he did. Obama shored up 63.3% of the vote in comparison to Clinton's 35.5% with 99% of Virginia precincts reporting.
Even with this convincing victory, though, few would discount the resiliency of the Hillary Clinton campaign given its history of comebacks in places like New Hampshire.
Still, NYU Students for Barack Obama were hopeful as they watched the results pour in on Tuesday night. "When he won by such a large margin, it was a confirmation of what we were doing," said Hackett, a CAS sophomore and Virginia volunteer. She also offered a prediction: "I think he'll win the rest of February starting with tonight because he's able to reach out to all kinds of voters."
© 2008 Washington Square News via U-WIRE