November 3, 2004

Students Watch Elections With Gov. Professor

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Gathered in “Kerry is Gorges” t-shirts and proudly bearing “I Voted” stickers, about 40 Cornell students gathered last night in a subterannean Sage Hall classroom. They were there to watch the elections on a projector screen and listen to Prof. Walter Mebane, government, give an insider’s analysis of how the campaign was going.

Mebane started off the evening by citing polls done by Zogby and Princeton which predicted an electoral vote of 311-213, in favor of Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.).

He also cited insider information from a colleague who said that Frank Luntz, a GOP pollster, predicted a Kerry win as well.

Mebane noted that the stock market was down, generally a sign that the incumbent was on his way out of office.

Throughout the night, Mebane interspersed the live electoral reports from major news networks with commentary and insights of his own and of his colleagues who updated him via cell phone and e-mail about how they thought the tight race was developing.

Several of the students brought laptops of their own and updated the room on the latest information from, and other, less traditional news sources such as online political “blogs.”

Early on in the evening, Mebane expressed surprise at the lines outside polling stations across the Northeast.

Israel Waismel-Manor, M.A. ’02 and a current Ph.D. candidate in government, came in after finishing voter drive and told the audience about his thoughts on the race.

“People are saying, ‘In fifty years, I’ve never had to stand in lines so long!'” Waismel-Manor said.

He also recounted various tactics that groups used to encourage voting.

“A nice touch the America Votes has is that the flyer they had; it says ‘Vote,’ and then in vertical stripes, subliminally … it says ‘For Change,'” Waismal-Manor recounted. “Because they are a 501 group, they cannot offically endorse a candidate.”

Olga Yarmak ’04 said that she “felt pretty optimistic,” coming into the evening. “Polls don’t take into account student turnout.”

She said that she journeyed through the light drizzle to the halls of Sage because, “it’s just fun to watch these things in a group. It’s less major stressing out than on my own.”

As Bush began accumulating heartland states’ electors, Yarmak admitted that she was not quite as optimistic: “It’s hard to tell with all the red states coming in first.”

Later in the evening, when the major networks projected Kerry taking New York and Penn., Mebane told the audience that Kerry is winning the states “where the people are.”

Throughout the evening, students conversed and compared election notes on their favored candidate, occasionally falling to silence such as when the first lawsuit of the election was announced in Philadelphia over the validity of certain absentee ballots.

At ten o’clock, Mebane turned on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” which had its own irreverent take on election coverage.

Shortly after, Mebane interrupted the network coverage and told the audience that a Harvard colleague had cross-referenced data from the Florida election in 2000 with last night’s incoming results and found that “Kerry is doing horrible in Florida.”

Later on Mebane would again emphasize that state’s uncertain outcome: “We’re just worried about Florida. I don’t know what’s going on there.”

Bush would later take the state.

Dan Smith ’06 said that he came to Sage for the “social scene.”

“A lot of people are all behind Kerry here. It’ll be fun if he wins,” he said.

Smith, who said he had voted absentee in Washington, D.C., said that he felt “confident that Kerry can win.”

He had been phoning potential voters in swing states earlier in the day, and said that although he talked to a couple “Bushies, most were pro-Kerry.”

He said that only one responder was against both parties. He said that she told him, “Only God’s kingdom is going to come and save the world.”

Archived article by Michael Morisy
Sun Senior Writer