As Super Tuesday looms, Yalies in the Obama camp have stepped up their efforts to woo New Haven voters.
To kick off the weekend’s events on Friday, Yale for Obama hosted former Democratic senatorial candidate Ned Lamont SOM ’80 and Kal Penn, an actor best known for his roles in “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle,” “The Namesake” and the television show “House.”
About 100 Yalies filled the Afro-American Cultural Center to catch a glimpse of Lamont and Penn and to sign up to volunteer for the campaign. The newly enlisted army of 150 student volunteers spent the rest of the weekend canvassing, knocking on over 4,700 New Haven doors on Saturday.
“Rarely does the state of Connecticut have such a unique role to play,” Penn told the News after Friday’s event. For hundreds of years, Yale has always been known for its political activism, he said, but “to know that you now have this incredible grassroots power … is especially significant for our generation.”
During 10 minutes of prepared remarks, Lamont recited the Obama campaign’s credo, emphasizing the candidate’s electability against John McCain.
“On the most important foreign policy decision of our day, senatorial candidate Barack Obama got it right, and Washington got it wrong,” Lamont said of Obama’s criticism of the Iraq invasion. “I believe that he represents a fresh start for America.”
Both speakers, but especially Penn, emphasized the importance of the youth vote in the election, calling for attendees to take a proactive approach to their support by volunteering over the weekend.
In his address, Penn said Obama’s base has become a true “movement” because he has rejected funding from federal lobbyists and instead solicited small donations from a broad spectrum of supporters.
Yale Students for Hillary also spent the weekend working hard to win votes for Hillary Clinton LAW ’73. The group held a phone bank and worked in a rally and canvass on Saturday, focusing their efforts on getting votes in Fair Haven, said Yale Students for Hillary president Ben Stango ’11.
The visit from Penn and Lamont was planned on short notice, said Jacob Koch ’10, the campus coordinator for Yale Students for Obama. Obama’s statewide organization had informed them a week earlier that Lamont and Penn would come to campus.
Even so, Koch said the campus group mobilized quickly thanks to months building a network of support.
The weekend’s efforts paid off, said Yale Students for Obama campaign coordinator Ben Lazarus ’10.
“This isn’t just driving kids to join a Facebook group,” he said.
By the end of the day Friday, about 115 students had signed up to take volunteer shifts in the days leading up to Tuesday’s primary.
“It exceeded all our goals — it was a complete outpouring of support,” said Sam Schoenburg ’11, communications director of Yale Students for Obama.
After a day of canvassing on Saturday, 25 bleary-eyed Yalies rose at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday to place Obama literature under the windshield wipers of churchgoing New Havenites before spending the rest of the day canvassing.
Organizers said Yale Students for Obama will continue canvassing efforts today, and tomorrow — election day — they will work to drive people to polling stations and to “get out the vote.”
Obama will be in Hartford today campaigning with Senator Ted Kennedy.