Droopy-eyed Columbia Students for Obama returned from the Buckeye state early Wednesday morning after a long weekend of campaigning, traveling through the night so that one campaigner could make it back on time for a 9 am midterm.
Even during a primary season in which every state matters, student activists can't forget about the other campaign of the moment, midterms. Despite the inopportune timing as academics anchor most students to their library desks, six students piled into a minivan last week and drove away from the Butler stacks to the Ohio haystacks.
"We had people who were campaigning all day and doing problem sets in the evening," Columbia Students for Obama Finance Chair Xi Bing David Ma, CC' 08.
Following February 5th's Super Tuesday primaries, in which the Democratic party split made it clear that the nomination was still up for grabs, campus Obama-ites began to focus on funneling their energy out into the national effort. Through the Obama campaign, they learned that their help was most needed in Ohio. Ma sprung into action to raise money for the trip, and after just over a week of T-shirt sale fundraising, the group scraped together enough funding to hit the road last Thursday.
After a nine-hour ride, the audaciously hopeful students arrived in Columbus Friday morning. One traveled on to Cincinnati, where her cousin was serving as Obama's campaign regional director. Upon their arrival, the five Columbus campaigners were put to work going door-to-door.
For Alana Krivo-Kaufman, BC '09, the trip wasn't just a political journey, but a visit home. "You're trying to get a hold of who these people are, to communicate what they want to know," she explained. "That's easier when you know the people, when you have a greater sense of who they are." Although Krivo-Kaufman didn't run into anyone she knew personally while out campaigning for Obama, some people from her own canvassing group did knock on her front door.
Each morning, their days started earlier-beginning at 10 a.m. on the first day and culminating with a 7 am start by the days of the primary. After fueling up on coffee, they split off into groups of two or three, each hitting different areas of interest to talk to potential voters about Obama's policy and promises.
Over the weekend, the Columbia quintet added a sixth member, when Tiffany Bryant, CC'08, boarded a Greyhound bus for 12 hours to join the crew, which knocked on anywhere from 1,200 to 3,000 doors, according to Ma.
Although Obama lost Ohio to Clinton in the state Democratic primary, the student campaigners were pleased with the results of their efforts. In Franklin County, where Columbus is located, Obama beat Clinton 56 percent to 43 percent, and the statewide gap was smaller than it had been before they arrived on the campaign scene.
But the results of Tuesday's elections also came as a disappointment to Obama and Clinton fans hoping to emerge from the evening with a single Democratic nominee.
"It looks like we're going to Pennsylvania," Columbia Students for Obama President Mary McDonald, CC '10, said. Ma explained that plans are already in the works to fundraise for a Pennsylvania trip and set up on-campus phone banks.
But Ma admitted that the party's divisions can be frustrating. The danger is, he said, that "Dems will still be fighting it out within," as emergent Republican candidate Joh McCain has time to build up an infrastructure.
Meanwhile, Obama and Clinton have turned up the heat on one another, nitpicking at one another's flaws with the knowledge that one of them will ultimately represent the party to which both claim loyalty.
College Republicans President Chris Kulawik, CC '08, said that his colleagues are split on which Democrat would be easier to beat in November and that Republicans have diverse perceptions of how inconclusive the left-hand race actually is.
Still, it's clear that as time progresses, so do opportunities for media attention on Democrats, for both good and bad.
McDonald is staying optimistic. Picturing Obama in the Oval, she said, "We have one heck of an alumni to post on our website."
© 2008 Columbia Daily Spectator via U-WIRE