While the long presidential primary has left some Yale politicos with more experience than they ever could have expected, Jacob Koch ’10 has many of them beat — by at least a few years.
Koch, a co-founder of Yale for Obama, has been campaigning for Sen. Barack Obama since the Democratic candidate was first seeking a seat in the U.S. Senate in 2004.
“I used to stand out in front of the ‘L’ stations in Chicago during the morning commute, handing out fliers,” Koch said, adding that he was only a freshman in high school at that point.
Four years later, as many fatigued campaigners are putting away their buttons and banners for the summer, Koch is ready to keep going. And while Obama’s goal has changed slightly this time, Koch still hopes to get involved in the field, the area he said he has the most experience.
He will not be the only current Eli out there. A handful of undergraduates who helped bring the fight for the Democratic presidential nomination to campus this year said they hope to bring their skills to the national level. For some, the effort will simply be a continuation of their passion for politics and their candidates. For others, the experience may also serve as a jumping-off point for a career in government.
Ben Stango ’11 said he plans to devote some of his energy to the Clinton operation, as well as his regular job at the Philadelphia mayor’s office. Stango, the president of Yale for Hillary, who was instrumental in bringing the campus group from “a collection of six or seven students at a Silliman picnic table” in the fall to an organization of 30 active members by Super Tuesday, has not yet confirmed a position with the campaign.
But, he said, he is sure he will be volunteering in some capacity before he returns to Yale in the fall.
It will not be the first time Stango has worked on the campaign circuit. The Pennsylvania native has done work for his state senator and, while in high school, worked his way up to be his town’s canvass director for a congressional candidate.
At this point, he is waiting for the Pennsylvania primary to pass before receiving confirmation of an assignment this summer. But polls suggest that Clinton will likely win in the Keystone State, and her recent statements suggest she may remain in the race until the convention even if she loses Pennsylvania.
Another freshman and “close personal friend” of Stango’s, Sam Schoenburg ’11, said he hopes to work on the Obama campaign this summer. The Springfield, Ill., native has been volunteering since the campaign was in its exploratory stage in 2007. He worked in Iowa last summer and in the lead up to the caucuses there over winter recess.
Schoenburg is also unsure of what role he will be taking with the campaign.
“I’ll probably be a field organizer, part of the base, at-the-ground army,” he said. “Just like I did in Iowa, I want to get in touch with voters and have continuous contact. You have some amazing conversations with people and get to hear about the issues important to them.”
When asked about how their plans might change if their candidate were to drop out, Koch, Stango and Schoenburg seemed ready to jump behind each other’s candidates in order to ensure a defeat of presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain.
But another Clinton summer-intern hopeful, Alexander Martone ’10, said that while he would probably vote for Obama if Clinton lost the nomination, it took him a while to reach that conclusion. The New York native, who also has experience working for Eliot Sptizer’s gubernatorial campaign, seemed to fall in line with the others at the end, though. Still, he said, he would not work for Obama.
“Thinking about voting for McCain was simply from frustration,” he said. “I would support whoever the Democratic candidate is because that’s much more important.”
But for Martone, the campaign serves another function — it provides a way for him to get involved and find a place to start a career in public service.
“I really like helping people, and I think working in government is one of the best ways to do that,” he said.
Even Schoenburg could not help but look into the future. Although he said that he is using college to explore which end of a campaign he would want to be on — as a politician or as an advisor — he acknowledged that the year of his graduation, 2011, would come right on the cusp of a potential Obama re-election.
After thinking about it for a second, Schoenburg concluded: “That would be nice.”