November 3, 2008

Cornellians ‘Get Out the Vote’ in Battleground State of Pa.

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STROUDSBERG, Pa. — 63 of Cornell’s most politically active were right at home on Main Street in Stroudsburg, Pa. this past weekend. From the used bookshop on the corner, to the pub down the block, to the American flags on the lampposts, the view from downtown Stroudsburg is as close to “America’s Main Street” as one could imagine.
51 members of the Cornell Democrats and 12 of the Cornell College Republicans made the two-and-a-half hour drive to Stroudsburg to campaign for their respective candidates in a crucial battleground state during the most important weekend of this election. Stroudsburg is in Monroe County, where President George Bush won by a mere four votes in 2004.
According to The New York Times, Pennsylvania is one of four states that the McCain campaign is focusing on in these last days before the election.
Pennsylvania voted democratic in the past four presidential elections by a narrow margin; John Kerry led George Bush by only 50.92 percent to 48.42 percent in 2004, according to The New York Times.
In this election, has Obama leading nationally by 6.4 percent and by 7.3 percent in Pennsylvania.
In what an Obama campaign staffer described as “the greatest ‘Get Out the Vote’ effort in history,” 168 out-of-state volunteers and 63 Cornell students joined the ranks of Stroudsburg’s Obama campaigners to canvass door-to-door, make phone calls to local voters, and encourage supporters to make it to the polls on Tuesday.
People of all ages, races, and localities bonded on the sidewalk over a common goal. A four-year-old girl and her two-year-old brother were the youngest volunteers, joining their mother and grandparents on the campaign trail.
Stroudsburg’s Obama campaign was almost four times as massive than it was just over a month ago when the Cornell Democrats first traveled there to volunteer. On Saturday alone, Obama campaigners made over 8,000 phone calls and knocked on over 3,000 doors.
According to Ray Mensah ’11, chairman of the Cornell College Republicans, Cornell’s McCain volunteers made over 1,000 phone calls and knocked on doors throughout the area on Saturday.
Rosie Hoffman, age 18, took a year off from her studies at Columbia to work as the office manager for the Stroudsburg Obama campaign.
“It’s inspiring, it’s frustrating, it’s hectic, it’s crazy, but at the end of the day you’re doing something that’s so fabulous that you can’t imagine being anywhere else,” she said.
Down the street from the main Obama Campaign office, Aardvark Sports shop displayed a dry erase board on the sidewalk that read, “Your Voice Counts! Please Vote Nov. 4.”
Volunteers stood on the corners of Main Street with Obama signs to increase the campaign’s visibility. Amidst familiar chiming from the local church’s clock tower, sign holders received a spectrum of responses. Honking horns, enthusiastic shouts of “Yeah Obama!” and thumbs up from car windows were punctuated occasionally by cries of “terrorists!” and “Muslims!” accompanied by inappropriate gestures.
One family walked into a restaurant on a corner where Cornell Democrats stood with signs. The mother, who looked to be in her early 40s, shouted, “Go Muslim supporters! Go Muslim supporters! Put the Muslim in the White House!” Volunteers remained resilient.
“As Colin Powell said, ‘so what if he is?’” Sam Morgante ’09 said.
“I think it’s just great to see so many people from so many different backgrounds, from so many different walks of life, from all over the country uniting behind a common cause, in this case Barack Obama,” Morgante said.
“It’s absolutely amazing. I mean I just can’t believe what this campaign has done,” said Astri Baillie of Madison, N.J., who canvassed in Stroudsburg on Sunday with two friends. “My son’s a senior in college and he was very disaffected with politics. He went to [campaign for] Obama and he came back believing. I mean he really thinks that we can pull this off if we all pull together … I think that’s so, so exciting.”
The energy in Stroudsburg was undeniable. Nefertiti Baptiste, a graduate of East Stroudsburg University, campaigned for Obama with her parents.
“Four years ago when I was at ESU I tried and got as many people as I could registered. We were so disappointed by the outcome. But now it’s time for change,” she said.
“It’s not even about race. I’ve seen so many people come together, and it’s just about change. We’re all in the same boat right now, and we need somebody to just continue to bring us together,” Baptiste continued.
According to Mensah, the Cornell College Republicans are equally passionate about this presidential campaign. “We all went down to Pennsylvania because this is an election that we feel strongly about. I don’t think that the excitement on both sides has ever been this high,” he said.
“No matter who is elected, the implications that this election has for the country are big, and we just want to be a part of this election,” Mensah continued. “No matter who wins, we are glad that we have been out on the trail campaigning. At the end of the day it’s about getting out to vote — taking part in our democratic right.”