Nadine Akra / Lantern reporter
More than 250 supporters came out for the grand opening of the Obama for America at Ohio State campaign office in the South Campus Gateway Wednesday night.
Obama’s campaign office on campus will provide students with a place to be politically involved by engaging in volunteer opportunities, organizing voter registration efforts and hosting campus team meetings, said Jessica Kershaw, press secretary for Obama for America-Ohio.
“We know how important engagement of young Americans is to the president’s re-election, especially at Ohio State,” Kershaw said. “This is our effort to make sure that we provide resources and access to the campaign that makes it very easy for students to get involved. They need to have an official place in which they can organize and meet and work together on behalf of the president.”
Greg Schultz, state director for Obama for America in Ohio and OSU graduate, hosted the opening. He said the campus campaign office is so important because no president has been elected into office without a victory in Ohio since 1860.
“(We have) a burden and a responsibility being at this university,” Schultz said. “We know that if we win this state, Barack Obama will be re-elected as president of the United States.”
With more than 20 Obama field offices around Ohio and one already in Columbus, located on Dublin-Granville Road, this campus location will be focused on college students by providing resources specific to the interests of young Americans, according to a recent press release from Obama for America-Ohio.
Drew Stroemple, a second-year in economics and political science and president of OSU College Republicans, said this Obama administration move shows it views Ohio as a stronghold for re-election.
“We’re going to make sure that they don’t win it the way they did in 2008,” Stroemple said. “The Romney campaign is putting a huge focus on the youth vote. It’s going to be a much tougher battle this time.”
Stroemple said although GOP presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney does not have a campaign office on campus, his Ohio campaign headquarters near Grandview Heights allows students to get involved in “grassroots traditions,” including making phone calls and campaigning door-to-door.
“It doesn’t matter how close you put (the Obama campaign) office to campus, it’s not getting any young people jobs,” Stroemple said. “It’s helpful in terms of convenience, but it doesn’t change the fact that their candidate has failed on issues that are important to young people, those issues being the economy and (student) debt.”
During the 2008 presidential elections, an Obama campaign office on OSU’s campus played a role in gaining the support of young Ohio voters, and the Obama administration hopes it will do the same for his re-election this year, Kershaw said.
Kershaw said the Obama administration focuses on a door-to-door approach for campaigning. By organizing in places that are convenient for students, including residence halls and the Ohio Union, the momentum for the Obama campaign will strengthen, she said.
“I think President Obama’s campaign understands that the power of the youth vote is incredible,” Kershaw said. “It’s evident in that the president’s first campaign stop in the country, not only was it in Ohio, it was on OSU’s campus. It shows his commitment to young Americans and Ohio.”
Stroemple agreed that youth voters have a significant impact on who will win Ohio in November and hopes groups like the OSU College Republicans will engage college students in favor of Romney.
“The importance on the Republican side is to make sure we don’t make the same mistakes we made in ’08,” Stroemple said. “We’re going to compete this year and we’re not going to let the youth vote go right to Obama.”
Sophie Shiloh, a first-year in international relations and member of OSU College Democrats, said having the Obama campaign office on campus will help gain supporters, but there is a lot more work to be done.
“If we didn’t have this office right here, we wouldn’t be able to connect as well with the students on OSU’s campus,” Shiloh said. “Having a presence this close is everything.”
Ryan Williams, a national spokesperson for Romney’s campaign, and Izzy Santa, communications director for the Ohio GOP office, could not be immediately reached for comment.