September 22, 2008

Cornell Democrats Campaign For Obama in Pennsylvania

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54 Cornell students packed into 12 cars made the three-hour drive this weekend to Pennsylvania — a crucial battleground state with a narrow democratic victory in the 2004 presidential election. The group, organized by the Cornell Democrats, traveled to the town of Stroudsburg to volunteer for Barack Obama’s campaign in Monroe County.
Students were put to work immediately upon their arrival Friday evening making phone calls to undecided voters.
The campaign’s goal for Saturday was to knock on 1,000 doors and make as many calls as possible. But Cornell students exceeded local campaign organizers’ expectations, according to John Spears, one of three campaign leaders in Stroudsburg.
In total, the Cornell Democrats knocked on over 1,500 doors, made over 2,500 phone calls, and registered 83 new voters.
“We’ve never had numbers like this before,” Spears said.
Ryan Newmyer, another campaign leader, exclaimed, “It’s unbelievable.”
Door-to-door canvassers were deployed from campaign headquarters Saturday morning to various wards in the Stroudsburg district. Phone calls were made from the campaign office while other volunteers registered new voters at the East Stroudsburg University football game, on street corners and at the local Wal-Mart and Shop-Rite.
Spears emphasized the importance of grassroots actions.
“Grassroots are important because there’s nothing that can replace the neighbor-to-neighbor, face-to-face contact. That’s really the best way to reach people and to bring about change,” he said.
Local campaign volunteers opened up their homes to the students, providing beds, floors and couches. Organizers said they were well-received, especially given the importance of the youth vote.
Ethan Felder ’09, president of the Cornell Democrats, said, “This is about young people getting involved to change America for the better. It is positive, progressive change.”
In states like Pennsylvania, every vote is crucial.
“If we don’t win Pennsylvania, we don’t win the election. 21 electoral votes are important. Without Pennsylvania, it is very hard for either side to win,” said Sam Morgante ’09, the principal organizer of the trip. “It has always been a battleground state, at least for as long as I can remember,” he said.
“One vote makes a big difference,” Haris Bhatti ’10 said.
Students on the trip demonstrated their passion for politics as they tried to persuade undecided Pennsylvania voters to cast a ballot for change.
Zach Gould ’11 said, “I think our country needs something to be inspired by, and Obama can be that something.”
This trip also provided students with an opportunity to speak about the issues in this year’s presidential race of personal importance.
“Students are now feeling the pinch from the job market, so they feel how the economy affects them individually and are starting to get involved,” Felder said.
Participants said the trip was a worthwhile experience.
“The most rewarding part of the trip was definitely going door-to-door in neighborhoods around Stroudsburg,” said Rachel Weinstock ’12. “People were generally very kind and receptive, even if they were not interested in Obama.”
“I talked to some really interesting people,” Claire Douglass ’12 said. “It was good to see how other people live and what issues are important to them. It gives you perspective and shows how we really can make a difference.”
The outcome of their efforts, however, will not be seen until the November election.
“This trip has definitely been very beneficial for our organization, but we won’t know if we’ve accomplished our goals until the polls close on election night,” Morgante said.
He spent the past three weeks organizing the trip and communicating with the Stroudsburg Obama campaign to coordinate details. The Cornell Democrats are working with the Ithaca Democratic Party to organize a second trip closer to Election Day.
“There’s been such tremendous support for this that we’re going to have to make at least one more trip. It’s just a matter of logistics,” Morgante said.