Obama's campaign is enlisting high schoolers in South Carolina to sign up voters.
COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CNN) – At Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters here on the north side of downtown, about a dozen students showed up to phone bank Wednesday night on behalf of their favorite presidential candidate.
However, some of the volunteers are prohibited from voting for the Illinois Democrat - they’re still in high school.
The Columbia effort, along with an event at South Carolina State University in Orangeburg on Thursday night, is part of a week-long voter registration drive by the Obama campaign with the goal of signing up 1,000 new voters on college and high school campuses across the state. The campaign says the efforts are “part of a larger, five-month long youth voter strategy.”
The high school students, who were mostly African-American, ranged from high school seniors to at least one freshman. The student volunteers read from a script as they called other young people in the area who have been identified by the Obama campaign as potential supporters. Obama operatives said the calls were made to teenagers as young as 17, who will be old enough to vote by the time the Democratic primary rolls around in January.
Staffers for rival Democratic campaigns here charge that the Obama campaign’s efforts at youth outreach, such as the grassroots high school event, are emblematic of the freshman senator’s lack of deep political roots in the Palmetto State.
At the same time, the Obama campaign has made it clear that attracting young people is a crucial part of their electoral strategy. Obama has visited several college campuses, and the campaign is leveraging the Internet to reach out to college students and young voters on Web sites like Facebook and YouTube. But the campaign’s use of high school students to sign up future voters is a new step.
During a pizza break, the students gathered under a large dry erase board decorated with a multi-colored mural reading, “Welcome to the O-Train!” The Obama staff told the students they were going to start organizing at more area high schools and encouraged the students to reach out to their friends “who are interested in politics, who are interested in Obama, who are just interested in change.”
As the students went around in a circle and introduced themselves, several said they were motivated to get involved with the campaign after reading Obama’s book “The Audacity of Hope.” Others said they learned about Obama on YouTube and on his Web site. One student said Obama was “cool,” while another commented that he was "good-looking."
– CNN South Carolina Producer Peter Hamby