Student groups help out Obama

By Paolo Cisneros

In an effort to ensure Midwestern swing states vote for their respective candidates, student groups are spending their weekends traveling across state lines to campaign.

The most active traveling group on campus is Students for Barack Obama, which has spent nearly every Saturday since the beginning of the academic year traveling to Indiana to knock on doors and work phone banks for the Obama campaign.

Although no Republican University organizations have made a trip across the Illinois border, College Republicans president and sophomore in FAA Bobby McNeily said his group is also planning to travel to Indiana to campaign for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

He added that while their plans have yet to be finalized, College Republicans would like to make more than one trip if time and resources permit.

“We’re a grassroots organization on campus, so of course we want to help out nationally,” McNeily said.

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Students for Barack Obama president Jake Hendee, junior in ACES, said that it is important to bring Illinois’ excitement for Obama across state lines to secure Democratic votes.

“With what Barack has done for his home state, the enthusiasm he has here is twice what it is everywhere else, so we’re trying to harness that and bring it to those swing states,” he said.

The group plans to spend every Saturday until the election sending carpools of University students and other local Obama supporters to the cities of Terre Haute and Lafayette, Ind.

Indiana has not voted for a Democrat since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, but recent polls show the state is up for grabs this time around. In addition, the Obama campaign has 32 field offices in Indiana compared to the McCain campaign’s zero.

While the reaction they receive varies by neighborhood, senior in LAS Jacob Rukin said their job in Indiana remains fairly consistent.

“A lot of it ends up being debunking falsehoods,” he said.

Rukin said they often have to explain to people the details of Obama’s tax plan and that he is not, in fact, Muslim.

Hendee said that on one particular Saturday in September, more than 40 volunteers made the venture. On average, about 20 supporters attend any given trip.

Despite high gas prices, Hendee said volunteers have been willing to make the drive. Carpooling helps substantially lower their costs, he said.

President of College Democrats and junior in LAS Eric Preston said his organization has also helped cover some of the costs.

Hendee added that volunteers are in the process of planning overnight trips for the week prior to the election.