With just under three weeks before Election Day, the Yale College Democrats face the possibility of watching a number of Democrats lose their positions to Republicans.
Members of the Dems explained that this year’s election is unique because of both the presidential race and close elections in traditionally blue states that have national significance, such as the Conn. Senate race between Democrat Chris Murphy and Republican Linda McMahon and the Mass. Senate race between Democrat Elizabeth Warren and Republican incumbent Scott Brown. Although the Democrats traditionally canvass and phone bank before elections, this year’s activity is much higher than usual, according to Zak Newman ’13, the group’s president.
“In 2008, there was a huge group of students that were all supporting [Obama] and became invested in the campaign with ideas of hope, and change, and everything else that got people excited about the election,” Newman said. “This time, I think people are much more sober about what this election means, which also makes it really empowering in that it has a substantive focus on policy.”
The Democrats have been working for a range of candidates — including President Barack Obama, Murphy, U.S. House candidate Elizabeth Esty and Warren — holding weekly phone banks, running voter registration drives and canvassing in Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and, this coming fall recess, in Pennsylvania. In 2008, the Dems did not have to focus their time on a senatorial race in Connecticut, allowing the group to focus more on other races.
“The Yale College Democrats have been extremely helpful to the Connecticut Democratic Party’s Coordinated Campaign in the 5th District,” Connecticut Democratic Party field organizer Matt Janiszewski, part of the Esty campaign, said in a Tuesday email. “Besides weekly phone banking, close to a dozen students joined us for our One Month to Go Rally in Cheshire a week and a half ago.”
Yale College Democrats Vice President Andrew Connery ’13 said that since the presidential race happens only once every four years, this is the only year for all current Yale students to work for the President while in college. He also noted the urgency of the two close Senate races in Connecticut and Massachuetts.
“We also have a really rare opportunity: we have incredibly competitive Senate races here in Connecticut and in Massachusetts, and these are two states that tend to be pretty blue,” Connery said. “The polls consistently have Murphy and McMahon within one, two or three points of each other, and what it really comes down to is the week and the weekend right before Election Day, and campaigns just need a lot of energetic people out there.”
Connery mentioned that previous races have come down to a narrow margin, such as the 2010 race for Governor of Connecticut, which Gov. Dannel Malloy won by just around 5,000 votes.
Hobbs added that an additional challenge to the Democrats’ work is the fact that they are in a re-election year.
“Obama has been here for four years, and the incumbent is never as exciting as they were before they were President,” Hobbs said. “But [the Yale College Democrats] have been able to mobilize a group of people who are super excited to get out and do some of the elections work that isn’t as fun: making a phone call and having someone yell at you as if you’re a horrible person isn’t easy.”
The Democrats have increased their work with the campaigns, and Hobbs said that compared to the previous two years, the group has been more active than ever.
Jimmy Tickey, campaign manager for Rep. Rosa DeLauro, said DeLauro’s campaign values college students in particular because of the energy, enthusiasm and necessary skills they add to campaigns.
“Young adults specifically are on social media, and I think that’s increasingly a place where people are getting so much of their news … [young adults] are such an important voting bloc,” Tickey said. “Yale has been terrific, and we have a longstanding relationship with them.”
The Yale College Democrats have roughly 250 active members, according to the organization’s communications director Eric Stern ’15.