College Democrats make pitch for Obama in swing states

After spending the night on a YMCA gym floor, students gulped down coffee at a local diner and piled into cars for their 11-hour work days.

A typical day on the College Democrats campaign trail starts at about 8 a.m. Students crisscross the streets by foot until sundown, pitching President Barack Obama to potential voters and keeping up their energy by the occasional shouts of “Four more years!”

Nearly four dozen students traveled to Hilliard, Ohio on one of four overnight trips from Oct. 12 to 14. They are among thousands of college students working Obama’s ground game, armed with clip boards, buttons and campaign stickers.

Media Credit: Gabriella Demczuck | Senior Staff Photographer
Olivia Lewis, a study abroad student from London, covers ground with the GW College Democrats in a suburb outside
Columbus, Ohio.

The group has also taken about 50 students to North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia this election cycle. Students also participate in weekly phone banking events and weekend trips to Virginia, sometimes with groups like Allied in Pride to promote the Maryland ballot initiative on marriage equality.

Media Credit: Gabriella Demczuck | Senior Staff Photographer
GW College Democrats sleep on a gym floor at a YMCA in a Columbus, Ohio, after a 9-hour drive from D.C. Students said they slept for less than seven hours a night on the campaign trail.

“I think that personally as someone who’s really starting to become more integrated in society, I’m going to be looking for a job in a few years, I want to make sure my country’s going in the right direction,” Kevin Palermo, the group’s freshman representative, said.

Some volunteers at the Cleveland suburb, mainly college students, have been campaigning there since the beginning of the year. The CDs knocked on more than 5,000 doors in the battleground state during their visit.

Campaign directors had a ritual to energize volunteers, shouting “Fired up,” with canvassers responding “Ready to go” in unison.

The state’s branch of Obama for America, headquartered in Chicago, Ill., got its start from Hilliard for Obama volunteer Judy Kamalay. The 61-year-old has pulled several College Democrats chapters from across Ohio and the country, including GW’s.

Kamalay has held several small meetings at her home since she joined the campaign in January. She said college students play a pivitol role in the

Media Credit: Gabriella Demczuck | Senior Staff Photographer
Former Democratic Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, right, and former Republican Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, left, visit the Obama for America office in Hilliard, Ohio.

election, and her inspiration comes from the many energized young Obama for America staffers – like GW senior DJ Sigworth, who took a semester off to work at the campaign office in Ohio.

“I think it’s a reward every day, because we’re working towards a really worthwhile goal,” Kamalay said. “I made a decision last year that there was nothing more important – not fully retiring, not going back to work – nothing was more important to me than doing everything I possibly could to get the president elected.”

Students received brief training on how to approach voters before pairing off to hit the streets, while others dial phones for hours to get out the vote for Obama.

That Saturday in Ohio, students were surprised with visits from former state governor Ted Strickland, a Democrat, and former Republican Florida governor Charlie Crist.

Both leaders encouraged political activism and stressed the importance of early voting during the election, with Crist saying Obama represents “American values,” not just those of Democrats or Republicans.

“What you’re doing is so vitally important to the future of this great country, and what so many people have worked for for so long,” Crist said. “We have to come together, and I know that this president is the man who can do it for all of us, so thank you for what you are doing.”

Unlike many other chapters nationwide, GW’s CDs rely on their own funding for events. It boasts more than 2,000 members. Of the 44 students on the Ohio trip, 10 were international students, representing England, Australia, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Japan and Singapore.

Senior Juliana Amin, the CDs’ campaign director, said the group began planning the trip in July. The most tedious aspect was keeping track of events and participants to follow through with arrangements, being that trips are usually coordinated just a month ahead of time.

“I think that young people should really be paying attention to what’s going on in this country, and appreciate the work this President has done, and should be trying to re-elect him so that we can keep moving forward,” Amin said.

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