Growing grassroot support

Jenna Staul

Students join in the presidential race by helping campaign for the candidates


Freshman electronic media major Alex Vitale and sophomore Russian translation major Anastasiya Spytsya represent their opposite political views.


Credit: DKS Editors

Alex Vitale has a lot on her mind.

The freshman electronic media management major is in and out of conversation as her eyes periodically dart downward toward the cell phone sitting in the palm of her hand.

The screen of the phone lights up, delivering breaking news.

“Sorry,” Vitale said as a smile drew across her face. “Obama just won Georgia – that’s really exciting.”

Vitale, a Barack Obama enthusiast, remained vigilant on Super Tuesday, carefully monitoring the progress of her favorite Democratic candidate via cell phone.

She, like other Kent State students, has committed herself to a brand of independent, grassroots campaigning that is quickly becoming the standard in the 2008 presidential race.

Vitale said she supports the Obama campaign by again taking to her phone. She spends her evenings fielding phone calls to states in which Obama is campaigning, garnering support for her favorite candidate from the comfort of her own residence hall room.

“You say ‘Hello, I’m a volunteer for Obama for America’ and then you ask if they are planning on voting,” Vitale said of the script used for the phone calls. “I think it’s good that it’s not a robot calling.”

Vitale, a member of the College Democrats group, “Students for Obama,” said the biggest threat to Obama’s groundswell of youth support is not rival Hillary Clinton; rather, it’s apathy.

“I started going (to College Democrats meetings) because I knew they were all into it,” said Vitale. “But the campus as a whole – it doesn’t seem like anyone is into it.”

Vitale literally wears her affinity for Obama on her sleeve, often supporting a blue Barack Obama jacket and buttons. Still, she said, no one ever comments on her partisan garb.

“I think it’s apathy,” Vitale said. “In December, I wore my Obama jacket on an elevator with co-workers, and they thought the word ‘Obama’ was a name brand.”

Someone who faces such apathy on a regular basis is Anastasiya Spytsya, a sophomore Russian translation major, who spends her time spreading the word about her candidate of choice, Republican John McCain.

Spytsya does not take her vote lightly: She spent time researching each candidate several months ago before making a decision about whom she would support.

“I read about every single candidate,” Spytsya said, clutching a frothy, caffeinated drink in Jazzman’s. “If Americans want a man who will stand for their beliefs, they should vote for McCain.”

Spytsya began a Facebook group for John McCain in April that boasts 19 members.

“I did it to show support,” Spytsya said. “Right now, Americans are so separated from each other – John McCain can unite us.”

The most common way she advocates for McCain, however, is much more personal.

“It’s more effective to talk to people one-on-one,” said Spytsya. “It’s more personal. It makes them think.”

Spytsya, who is a member of the College Republicans, said she concentrates on simply talking to people around campus and in her residence hall about the Republican front-runner.

“I think that Kent State is just very liberal,” said Spytsya. “The main thing is that some people don’t support the war. And when I talk to Republicans, they seem to want different things from different candidates.”

While she fervently supports McCain, Spytsya’s feelings toward Democratic contender Hillary Clinton are considerably less positive.

“I’m totally against Hillary Clinton,” Spytsya said. “I don’t want Bill to come back.”

C.J. Williams, a freshman international relations major, would disagree.

Williams heads the College Democrats group “Students for Hillary.” He, like Vitale, spends his free time making phone calls to prospective Clinton voters throughout he country, including key primary states like New Hampshire.

“We’ll be making phone calls,” Williams said of the future campaigning Students for Hillary will be doing. “We’ll also probably hand out literature and hang signs.”

He said he’ll be casting a vote for Clinton because he feels Obama is not yet prepared to be commander in chief.

“Obama is too young in politics,” Williams said. “It scares me. If he would run in 2016, I’d vote for him.”

Contact student politics reporter Jenna Staul at [email protected].