Roger Low ’07: In search of President Obama, sleep

Roger Low ’07 has no idea where he’s going to be sleeping tonight.

Actually, as he cruises in his Honda down a highway in rural Utah at 9:05 Mountain Standard Time on Super Tuesday, the former president of the Yale Political Union doesn’t know much of anything about his future — or that of his country.

One minute, his cell phone is ringing; his anxiety level begins to rise. Will his candidate win enough delegates to stay in the race? Will his mission be fulfilled? Questions — big ones — linger unanswered.

“Wait? Really? I thought they called it for Utah already. Seriously, Kathy? OH MY GOD.”

The next, Low is asked a tough (read: softball) question by the News: Do you know where you’ll be, say, tonight? Tomorrow?

“I have no idea!” he says.

Such is the life of a campaigner. In Low’s case, a field organizer for Senator Barack Obama who has been toiling on the trail more or less nonstop since July 1.

When was his last break? “Christmas.” Anytime else? “Thanksgiving.” Before that? No dice.

“Working on the campaign has been amazing,” Low says,” but it’s also been incredibly exhausting.”

And incredibly rewarding.

As an organizer in northern Nevada, mainly Elko County, for about half a year, Low led the effort to set up a structure that would lead to a victory for Obama. It worked — in his area of the state at least. Although Clinton won more of the popular vote than Obama (51 to 45 percent), Obama garnered nearly 70 percent of the vote where Low was in charge.

The success earned Low a shout out from Obama himself at a rally broadcast on CNN. (But the brown-haired Branfordian was running an errand at the time and missed it!) And when John Edwards challenged Obama in a recent debate by saying that he was particularly appealing to rural voters, Obama made an allusion to Low’s laurels.

“What I was going to say, though, is being able to go everywhere in America and campaign and to compete — and I grew up in the rural South, in small towns all across the rural South, and I think I can go everywhere and compete head-to-head with John McCain,” Edwards said in the Jan. 21 debate to which Obama countered, “In places like Elko, I won by 30 points. And we were attracting independents and some Republicans.”

After dozens of successive 10-hour days, you take what you can get.

Low says he was energized by the experience.

“Every day, I would interact with Republicans, independents, non-partisans, conservative Democrats, who had the same attitude — there was absolutely no way these people were going to vote for Hillary. It was laughable,” Low explained. “But they were very, very open to Barack.”

Low may sound as if he’s rehashing his campaign’s message points — and he is — but talking politics in Nevada transcended more than the race itself. It was, at its core according to Low, a matter of human interaction.

Take the local Crescent Valley, Nev. judge.

Only after driving miles and miles to “the middle of nowhere” did Low finally get to meet the woman, one of relatively few voters in the area, all of whom he tried his best to win over. She did not own a phone — or possess a law degree, for that matter.

“It was a moment,” Low says between chuckles. “I mean, why would I ever drive out to the middle of nowhere to talk to her — and yet she’s this amazing woman.

“It just made me realize,” he added, “the weird power that people suddenly have thrust upon them in the presidential process.”

But as for the inevitable question — would you do it all over again? — Low is decidedly torn.

“I’m absolutely glad I did it, because it gives you this amazing insight into the political process that you couldn’t get anywhere else,” he says. He has advice, though: “You’re absolutely, absolutely crazy if you want to work on a campaign if you don’t passionately believe in the candidate, because you will want to kill yourself if you don’t passionately believe.”

And passionately believe, Low does. But that’s nothing new.

While at Yale, Low was one of the founders of Yale for Obama as well as the president of the Yale Political Union, the chairman of the Independent Party and the author of News column on political affairs, The Lowdown.

It was the YPU experience in particular that prepared him for what was to come, he said — but only after talking himself in circles for some time.

“Actually, hmm … now that I think about it, there’s actually a surprising amount of continuity between debating at the YPU and organizing, because really what it comes down to is lobbying people,” he said. “On the other hand, organizing is the epitome of going out and doing something instead of thinking about how the politics of a country should be.”

But the whole Yale thing isn’t always a positive on the campaign trail of the southwest (if ever).

“I was doing an informational meeting in West Windsor, an incredibly small town,” Low recalled, “and someone mentioned that Obama was editor in chief of the Harvard Law Review. A woman responded, ‘Oh, Harvard. Well at least he’s not from Yale — that’s where the Bushes are from.”

Low chuckled nervously.

“Yeah,” he mumbled awkwardly, “Those bastards at Yale.”

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