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Students slow to support Obama

President Obama swept into office in 2008 with significant support from college students, winning roughly 94 percent of the vote at Brown's on-campus polling center and 63 percent across the state. But with slightly more than a year to go before the 2012 presidential vote, Providence area college students are in no rush to start campaigning for the president.

Shawn Patterson '12, president of the Brown College Democrats, said it is too soon to assess how student enthusiasm for Obama's re-election bid compares to 2008, but the organization's goal remains the same as that of three years ago.

"We are involved to get the president re-elected. That hasn't changed," he said. Brown students have had a long history of involvement in election campaigns. They made up almost half of the staff in 2008 at Rhode Island offices, he said. Patterson said he thinks Obama has accomplished what he promised. But Obama has failed to rally his base. "We got everything we wanted. Somehow he's losing the fight," Patterson said.

"We are prepared for a tough election," said Clo Ewing, director of constituency press for Obama for America, the president's campaign organization. The campaign is not starting from scratch, she said. Two years after the 2008 election, the campaign had staff on the ground in Rhode Island to prepare for Obama's re-election bid, and it has established fellowships in the summer and fall geared toward recruiting students for the campaign.

Obama for America is currently working to organize offices nationally and will have a "presence here in Rhode Island," Stephanie DeSilva, executive director of the Rhode Island Democratic Party, wrote in an email to The Herald.

Students are just as fired up about Obama's re-election as they were in 2008, said Scott Andrews, the president of the URI College Democrats and a senior at URI. While the group has yet to start campaigning for 2012 candidates, they are teaming up with the university's College Republicans to organize a student political boot camp that will be held at URI in November. The event provides instructions and trains students to be hired in the next campaign, Andrews said.

Andrews said Obama was right in focusing on challenges students often face, like employment and rising costs of tuition. "Education is so critical. This president understands this," said Andrews.

Wendy Schiller, associate professor of political science and public policy, stressed the importance for Obama of keeping all states in play. Though Rhode Island has been a reliably blue state, the campaign cannot take any state for granted, she said. Rhode Island Democrats will likely focus their resources on the re-election campaigns of the state's congressional caucus. The re-elections of Democrats Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressman David Cicilline will be crucial to maintaining the party's dominance in the state, Schiller said.


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