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Obama’s Ohio State visit provides students inside look at campaign

Andrew Holleran / Photo editor

For some students, President Barack Obama’s Oct. 9 campus visit was not simply another political spectacle but a chance to see the inner workings of Obama’s campaign.
Obama For America, the president’s campaign team, recruited about 200 volunteers to help register voters and run behind-the-scenes tasks at the event. The Ohio State College Democrats worked in tandem with OFA to plan and organize the event.
Obama’s visit fell on the final day of voter registration in Ohio. During his speech, Obama encouraged the crowd of about 15,000 to take advantage of Ohio’s early voting hours and to vote immediately.
OFA provided a fleet of buses to take voters to Columbus’ early voting location at 1700 Morse Road after the event. These tasks all put the small army of student volunteers to work.
For many students involved, the visit was not just a chance to see the president, but a way to get civically engaged. Candice Staley, a first-year in film studies and transfer student from the University of Cincinnati, said she volunteered because she wanted to get involved during her first year at OSU.
“Being a volunteer at the rally was such a great experience because it gave me the opportunity to be a part of something so big,” Staley said. “I met a lot of people and got the experience to see what went into a campaign that you normally wouldn’t see from the outside.”
For others, it wasn’t their first time volunteering with a campaign. Rachel Cohen, a second-year in political science and communication, is an intern for Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown and a member of College Democrats. She said that, in addition to VIP access, volunteers got a perspective on the event that regular attendees did not.
“As a volunteer, I saw more of the work that went into the event in the days leading up to it,” Cohen said.
Volunteers found themselves working closely with OFA to do things like set up the event the day before, manage traffic and run entrance security with the Secret Service.
“Every single person matters, whether it’s someone passing out water or blocking off traffic,” said Josh Ahart, president of College Democrats. “Or chanting louder than the protestors.”
The Buckeye State has been a crucial stop for presidential nominees, evident from their routine stops in different parts of the state. Columbus in particular has been the target of many visits, affording OSU students a unique opportunity to get politically involved.
“OSU could literally swing the state of Ohio,” Ahart said.
Tuesday’s visit to the Oval was Obama’s fifth to OSU in two years.
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was in Central Ohio last week when he visited Delaware, Ohio, on Oct. 10, about 30 minutes north of Columbus, and Lancaster, Ohio, about 40 minutes from Columbus, Friday.
A televised debate between Obama and Romney was held Tuesday. The 9 p.m. town hall-style debate was at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.
Results of a Tuesday seven-day rolling Gallup poll have Obama and Romney tied at 47 percent among registered voters with less than a month until the Nov. 6 presidential election.

Max Mauerman is involved with OSU’s non-partisan voter registration and education program.

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