One day after Super Tuesday proved inconclusive for Republicans vying for the White House, the Obama campaign kicked off an effort to capture the student vote at universities across the state.
The President's Greater Together Summit Tour is a nationwide effort that will run through March. Eighteen UW campuses in all will host their own organizing summits. The event Wednesday at the UW-Madison Memorial Union, which attracted some 100 students, was simulcast at nine other campuses, including UW-Milwaukee, Edgewood College and Marquette University.
Robert Gibbs, President Barack Obama's former White House press secretary, who was joined by campus, state and regional field organizing officials, told students it was urgent that they help tackle the grunt work of organizing-- including canvassing and going door-to-door to register voters -- in order to help secure a second term for the president. He said they would need to be just as instrumental in the president's reelection as they were in his 2008 election.
"There are lobbyists and special interests that are hoping you're distracted in November," Gibbs said. "If you want to finish the journey, you have an obligation to go it one more time."
Gibbs touted Obama's reforms during his first term in office, citing the passage of healthcare reform, a doubling of the number of Pell grants available to students and the repeal of the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.
He also characterized the current frontrunners in the GOP primary race as politicians who are out of touch with the American people and want to roll back Obama's reforms. Knowing his audience, Gibbs noted that the healthcare reform measure that allows students to stay on their parent's health insurance until age 26 would almost certainly be repealed if a Republican were elected president.
Jeremy Bird, national field director for Obama for America, said that campaign help and record student turnout would allow the president's reforms to continue.
"The things we've fought for are too great to give up," Bird said. "Some says that politics can be a game but it's not. It's about people"s lives."
Bird characterized the state's much disputed Voter ID law, now under a temporary injunction for the April 3 election, as part of a nationally coordinated effort to make it harder for certain groups, including students, to vote in elections. Bird urged students to "own the vote" and redouble their efforts to educate the community about the law to ensure no voters are turned away from the polls.
After organizers finished speaking, students broke into groups to brainstorm ways to organize student voters in their own neighborhoods.
Students who lived in high-rise apartment buildings on University Avenue and West Johnson Street agreed to staff campaign tables in their lobbies and reach out to their neighbors through social media.