Neither rain, nor sleet, nor dark of night could keep devoted followers of democratic presidential candidates Senators Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) from stumping for their candidates during Tuesday’s Maryland, Virginia, and District of Columbia primary elections. Students did everything from canvassing neighborhoods throughout D.C. to standing outside precincts encouraging people to vote.
In the afternoon, over 20 members of Georgetown University for Barack Obama, ranging from freshmen to graduate students, teamed up with his D.C. operation to walk around neighborhoods and try to convince residents to vote for their man.
Tuesday was a huge success for Obama supporters: according to the Washington Post, Obama won the District primary decisively, garnering 75 percent of the vote, while Clinton received only 24 percent. Obama also captured Virginia and Maryland by wide margins, winning 64-35 and 60-37, respectively.
Kristen Knuden (SFS’10) is a recent Obama convert. Crossing over from the Clinton camp, her enthusiasm for Obama skyrocketed this semester, although she had not done much for the campaign until Tuesday.
“I haven’t been able to do much other than convincing friends,” Knunden said. “I heard his speech and fell head over heels for him. He’s just what this country needs.”
During the van ride to a Home Depot parking lot where they were assigned to canvas, students explained the reasons for their Obama fervor. Blake Schell (COL ’08) said that his whole family had continuously supported Obama since his election as a U.S. Senator from Illinois. Other students disliked Hillary’s divisiveness, citing Obama’s bipartisanship as an asset.
Once at the volunteer station, supporters were divided into groups of seven and given a list of “Obama-friendly” houses in select neighborhoods. Volunteers were given flyers and were told to go knocking door to door, but due to the nasty weather the teams focused on passing out flyers at each door instead of actually talking with people.
Assigned to the neighborhood immediately to the north of Fort Slocum Park, straddling the border of Northwest and Northeast Washington, Josh Boswell (SFS ’11) and Rudd King (GRD ’10) were amazed at the number of houses considered Obama-friendly—around 80 percent.
“And don’t forget to vote Obama today,” King said to those walking down the street or driving by. Most reacted to the canvassing students in their Obama shirts with a holler of “Obama!” and a thumbs up.
A strong supporter of Obama, Boswell said that, were Clinton to become the nominee, he would become “apathetic” and choose not to vote.
King said he would reluctantly vote for Clinton, partly because he did not want a Republican president again.
Across town at the Duke Ellington School polling place, several Georgetown for Hillary members stood on the corner of 35th and Reservoir holding signs as people drove by.
Melissa Munjanattu (SFS ’11) said she originally tried to get on the Obama bandwagon this summer. She had read his book, The Audacity of Hope, and heard his speeches but said once she went behind his rhetoric, she found his policies were severely lacking.
“I’m supporting Hillary partly because of her plans for universalhealth care, which Obama doesn’t even come close to,” Munjanattu said. “Her Iraq stance is more reasoned. She will put diplomacy first and she has the courage to do things that aren’t popular, which I respect.”
Jia Shi (SFS ’11) said that her reasons for supporting Hillary included a love for Bill and the fact that the newer Clinton is the first major female candidate.
The Clinton team conceded Tuesday that they did not think their candidate would win the D.C. primary, although they did have some hopes for Virginia.
Tanya Gassenheimer (COL ’10), Vice President of Georgetown for Hillary, said that she thought a lot of people were resigned to a defeat.
“We were hoping for an upset, though we were disappointed with the margin of Obama’s victory,” Gassenheimer said.
“We’re looking forward to the upcoming primaries of Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania because they should easily favor Hillary.”
Nick Wertsch (COL ’09), a Volunteer Coordinator for GU for Barack Obama, disagreed with Gassenheimer’s predictions.
“The wins [on Tuesday] show [that] his campaign has been picking up momentum,” Wertsch said. “We’re hoping to take Ohio and Texas with it.”