By Andrew Schulman
March 15, 2012
LSA freshman Pavitra Abraham first heard President Barack Obama speak when he visited her high school during his 2008 campaign. She said she was impressed by his charisma and personality during the event and decided to research his policies afterward. In 2011, Abraham joined his campaign.
“I was just absolutely mesmerized by him,” Abraham said. “He was so charismatic and positive and relatable. And from 2008 until now, he’s just made so much progress with people our age.”
Abraham, who now works for the Obama campaign as a campus organizer for Organizing for America, is among thousands of students who will participate in the campaign this fall and advocate for Obama’s re-election in November.
LSA sophomore Alexandra Brill, the newly elected chair of the University’s chapter of the College Democrats, was an ardent Obama supporter in 2008 and said she is looking forward to campaigning for his re-election this year. She pointed to his progress on issues pertinent to students — college loans and the jobs economy in particular — in calling Obama “the education president.”
“Even people who aren’t in the College Dems have seen (how much he’s done for education) and will see it when they go to pay back student loans and realize how difficult it is,” Brill added. “He’s made it a little easier, and I think students have noticed.”
Across campus, Brill said she thought Obama likely has about the same support as he did in the 2008 election. While she said the enthusiasm levels of the last election cycle might be difficult to replicate since the historical nature of his presidency has passed, Brill added that Obama’s progress in the last four years should maintain his student support.
Abraham agreed with Brill that Obama will find student support in his educational accomplishments, specifically as a result of his advocacy for Pell Grants and his introduction of the new income-based loan repayment program. Abraham added that the students she has encountered at the University have expressed excitement to restart their efforts toward aiding Obama’s re-election.
“There’s a lot of enthusiasm around the campaign and for everything he’s done for people our age,” Abraham said.
In the last presidential election, Obama’s campaign depended on the support of students nationwide, especially at the University. Data from student-dominated polling places in 2008 showed a 14-percent increase in presidential election ballots cast from the 2004 election.
Still, a growing number of students are growing dissatisfied with Obama’s record during his first term and feel that he hasn’t delivered on his original campaign promises of change.
LSA freshman Vitaliy Studennyy said she believes Obama had a “decent” first term, but failed to bring the change he promised during his last campaign.
“He hasn’t lived up to the hype that he’s created,” Studennyy said. “He said he was going to change things before he got elected, and right now, he’s just gradually building up to it and making these same promises again going up to the next election.”
Other students said the country’s economic outlook has worsened under the Obama administration. Rackham student Benjamin Stewart, who said he did not vote for Obama in 2008, said he is concerned that the deficit and government spending have continued to rise over the last few years.
“I was pretty adamant against what Bush had been doing with the deficit, and I think it’s been either a continuation or a worsening under Obama,” Stewart said.
Before Obama’s election in 2008, the University’s chapter of College Democrats hosted mass meetings during which they registered 1,741 new voters and enrolled more than 1,200 students on their e-mail list during the first week of September.
Nathanial Eli Coats Styer, then-chair of the University’s chapter of College Democrats, said he had never seen such a high level of enthusiasm for a candidate on campus, following a 2008 meeting in which 100 of 300 attendees could not fit in the room.
“The excitement on campus is amazing,” Styer said. “I don’t think that we’ve ever matched this kind of excitement.”
Brill said the group’s January mass meeting, which the group advertised as the start of the 2012 campaign push for Obama, was also packed with attendees.
“Students should know that Obama’s got their back, so they should have his,” Brill said.