September 6th, 2007
10:36 AM ET
15 years ago

Obama's high school appeal

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

soundoff (47 Responses)
  1. Cary - Lowell, IN

    To Ron from TX-

    Why aren't Obama and Billary campaigning on their "records?" What have they done that's successful?

    the experience a Senator has is sitting around legislating, and voting. the experience an executive (such as Governor or Mayor) has is actually making the bigger picture work. For example Mayor Giuliani decreased crime in New York by increasing the punishment. Last night Giuliani stated he reduced crime by 75 percent. That's the kind of experience voters need to hear about- specific achievements. These Presidential candidates cannot be too specific in what they have accomplished, to give the voters their credentials.

    September 6, 2007 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  2. L Gaspar Phoenix, AZ

    Praise to Obama. We need the youth in this country to be excited and engaged in the political process. This is the exact age group that needs to be speaking up, learning and helping shape this country. What a wonderful idea of engaging and showing our youth respect.

    September 6, 2007 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  3. RuthieM

    This is yet another wonderful phenominal Obama move. Even high school isn't young enough to voter educate, so anything the Obama campaign is doing to bring high schoolers, youngsters, into the fold is fantastic. Now, Hillary Clinton - and Edwards - will follow.

    September 6, 2007 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  4. Ron, TX

    To Cary – Lowell, IN:

    Obama passed an ethics reform bill in the US senate to stop corruption. He was responsible for the governmental transparency bill that allows the public could see where Washington has spent their money. Working families in Illoinis experiences a 100 million dollar tax cut... His judgement is also far more incredible than any of his competitors. He was endorsed by the top democratic foreign policy expert, and he knew a certain war shouldn't be fought.

    If Obama's leadership and ability to unite America cannot wrangle in Washington's absurdity, I don't think anyone can. Something's gotta change, and he's in the best position to do it.

    September 6, 2007 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  5. Linda, Chandler AZ

    "But Obama doesn't have any experience making executive decisions. That's right, none. Yes, he can talk a good game to legislate and take more of your tax money, but in Presidential – like duties, he has no experience."

    Huh? Excuse me, but NONE of the candidates running for President have experience making executive decisions!!! Last time I checked none of them have been President before. What Obama does have is intelligence, integrity, sound judgement, and the ability to inspire millions to get off their duffs and engage themselves in politics!! He's a born leader...and those don't come around often.

    September 6, 2007 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  6. spinstopper

    If they reaaalllly want to help the Obama campaign, they can slash his rivals tires and hand out cigarettes for homeless votes as other dem youth have been convicted of..

    September 6, 2007 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  7. Vote for Pedro, Kanab

    I can see it now, Hillary will amend her campaign slogan to:

    Change for the youth + Experience for the old guard.

    I'm your gal!

    September 6, 2007 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  8. Ryan, New York, NY

    Cary in Lowell, IN,
    Did Rudy happen to mention how that drop in crime wasn't all that different than the rates in Boston, San Francisco, and San Diego, cities that weren't enacting similar policies? The real reasons for the decrease in crime nationwide are a increased economic conditions and the curbing of the in the crack epidemic.

    Don't believe everything that he says at face. He has an uncanny knack for taking all the credit for things that he didn't cause. 9/11 is the only thing that he has going for him and really, what did he do except do a mediocre job, at best, of cleaning it up.

    If anyone is thinking of voting for Rudy, they should first independently look at what Rudy did prior to 9/11 to see how he would be as a President. He wasn't loved by New Yorkers then and I'm sure he'll be less loved by the rest of the country if he's elected.

    Even he realized how little he was liked. Just take note that on the morning of September 11, while breakfasting with Bill Simon, who was considering a 2002 gubernatorial bid in California, Giuliani told him, “I could endorse your opponent. That might help you more.”

    September 6, 2007 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  9. mike, minneapolis, mn

    Reading the responses, I fell that people are missing the point. On one hand we have an afternoon entertainer that has clout and is using it to help a candidate increase exposure. On the other hand we have someone using a state and her husband's previous presidency to increase her exposure. So, don't damn the person, damn the system. Everyone should get exposure and be responsible for their own actions and ideals. There are alot of little people out there that probably would be better than either of the two in descussion. Euil exposure for all candidates and we wouldn't have to worry about who Oprah likes or don't like.

    September 6, 2007 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  10. Rob

    Dang some of you angry bloggers suck! The man is doing a good thing for youth that would have otherwise neglected by the system yet its still not good enough for you. Would you rather them rob and steal and go to jail? I’m sure some of you racist/bigots do. Hillary and all of the other candidates haven't mobilized or made youth feel as though they matter. Don't be mad because Obama can. The bible says a child shall lead them. Remember, voting age starts at 18 and the youth are American citizens too. If they can die and fight for this country then their vote counts even more than ours. If you aren't doing anything to help our children like Obama is... THEN SHUT YOUR FAT TRAPS!

    OBAMA 08!

    September 6, 2007 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  11. Tony, Dallas TX

    Bill Clinton had the same view of experience when he was running. Bill Clinton seems to have forgotten his words in 1992 regarding experience. We do not need the Washington experience and he knows it. See the link below and see that the only change we can get from the Clintons is the change of positions to where the wind blows.

    September 6, 2007 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  12. Rachel, Toledo, OH

    I am a young voter from Ohio. This will be the first election in which I'm allowed to vote, and I'm most definitely supporting Obama. His idea to reach out to younger voters is wonderful. It amazes me every year how few people vote in our country. We have a privilege that most people spend their entire lives wishing they had, yet so many Americans take it for granted. If Obama's campaign can get young people to vote, maybe we will start a trend. As these teens get older, they'll continue voting, and will most likely later persuade their children to vote. To me, this is just more proof that Barack Obama is exactly what America needs: fresh, new, and intelligent ideas.

    September 6, 2007 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  13. Linda, Chandler AZ

    Why do you keep cutting my comments?? Too many pro-Obama post for you?

    September 6, 2007 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  14. James, Phoenix AZ

    O-Train. B-Rock.

    Great, we've graduated from ebonics into B-bonics.

    Hopefully those high school kids are texting their friends and not calling adult voters. Informed, educated voters will be turned off by kids telling them how to vote – much like the Howard Dean "writing campaign" turned off voters.

    September 6, 2007 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  15. Henry Tucker, Ga

    "This type of grassroots effort has ALWAYS worked"

    Not ALWAYS... ask Howard Dean.

    September 6, 2007 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  16. Henry Tucker, Ga

    "Obama is a "good-looking" man! Michelle Obama is so lucky. There isn't a candidate except for John Edwards who comes close."

    Between "like wow he's soooo darn cute" and "Hillary can fix anything cuz she's a woman!" ... I see the depth of the democratic constituents critical thinking fails to get beyond the "Desperate Housewives" mentality.

    September 6, 2007 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  17. Dan, TX

    Obama has plenty of experience from me. His policies on international relations are well laid out. His detailed health care plan is quite thoughtful. Surely everyone knows where to find these details and can use his well articulated plans on many issues as a basis for deciding if his views on policy make sense to you. Certainly we know enough about his life story to decide what his experience is, both as a politician and a human being. The information is there, you just won't find it accurately protrayed in the media, it just won't seel enough papers or attract enough viewers to tell a truthful accurate story.

    September 7, 2007 12:45 am at 12:45 am |

    I support Obama fully. I'm wondering 'what is his opinion of the 'JENA6' high school students? PEACE!

    September 7, 2007 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |

    I support Obama fully, what is his opinion of the 'JENA6' high school students?

    September 7, 2007 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  20. D. Davis, Chicago, Illinois

    I support Obama fully.

    September 7, 2007 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  21. Rick - Indiana, PA

    To those who say that Obama has no executive experience: No 2008 candidate does, with the exception of Bill Richardson. Further, notice how all those comments railing against Obama about his Pakistan stance have disappeared? That's because all of the generals stood up and said that he was right. Oh, yeah, and it also happens to be the current U.S. policy.

    To those who say that Obama has no record of doing anything as a legislator: He has sponsored nearly 800 bills in the Illinois senate, and nearly 200 in the U.S. Senate. Moreover, those bills have been substantial things, such as ethics reform, and not just naming post offices.

    To those who say Obama is "just like the other politicians": To this day he remains the ONLY Senator to release his earmarks, which happen to be FAR less than his competitors estimates. He has chosen to renounce the acceptance of contributions from national lobbyists and PAC's to avoid undue influence on the national level.

    So, which candidate should you be supporting, hmmmm? Me, I'll take the one who has done the best job is putting his money where his mouth is. OBAMA.

    September 8, 2007 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
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