By Sarah Kneezle
HANOVER, N.H., 09/27/07 — After facing an anomalous New Hampshire
heat wave, the threat of rain and descending fog, students at
Dartmouth College rallied in support of their favorite democratic
candidates after last night’s presidential debate.
In a packed and humid Leede Arena where about 2,000 students watched
the debate, candidates marched forward to galvanize the youth vote
following the third DNC sanctioned debate this campaign season.
Almost every candidate took a detour from Spin Alley to speak and
shake hands with the Ivy League students.
“Who has the longest arm-that’s the candidate I want,” one young voter
eager to shake hands said to her friends in true New Hampshire primary
form.
Avoiding Spin Alley to meet with voters and students has become a new
campaign tactic, according to Dante J. Scala, associate professor of
political science at the University of New Hampshire and author of
“Stormy Weather: The New Hampshire Primary and Presidential Politics.”
“There’s not much to say in Spin Alley,” he said. “If you’re a lesser
known candidate it could be good, but if you’re Barack Obama you might
as well be going out talking to students and voters.”
And that’s just what Obama did. He walked in the room first and was
met with cheers befitting the makeshift basketball court stage he
stood upon.
“I say O, you say Bama. O! [Bama!] O [Bama!],” his cheerleaders with
signs, T-shirts and pamphlets exclaimed.
Sen. Joe Biden walked in next, accompanied by his two polished sons,
Beau, 38, and Hunter, 37.
“You’re bright, you’re more engaged — you volunteer more,” the
senator said to the crowd before he invoked Irish poet Shamus Heaney
in asking students to help “make hope and history rhyme.” He counseled
women in the crowd, “No men till you’re 30; that’s what I tell my
daughters.”
Governor Bill Richardson, former Sen. Mike Gravel and Rep. Dennis
Kucinich also made appearances.
But Senator Hillary Clinton, who in a recent University of New
Hampshire poll was a clear frontrunner in New Hampshire with a 23
point lead over Obama, never came. Senator Chris Dodd and former Sen.
John Edwards also were MIA.
“I think if a candidate doesn’t come to speak to the students, it
could hurt their chances with the student vote,” senior history major
Jana Paremoud, 21, said.
Still Paremoud and others weren’t sure who they wanted to see on the
Democratic ticket.
“I feel that Hillary was more indirect and avoided answering
questions,” she said.
Other students seemed more impressed by the seemingly more
straightforward answers of second and third tier candidates.
“Gravel was hilarious, but Barack impressed me most,” sophomore
biochemistry major Islam Fayed(cq), 19, said. “Richardson, I think, is
the most qualified.”
Despite elated cheers, T-shirts, banners and well-choreographed chants
for the freshman senator from Illinois, a student focus group led by
the college designated Obama last place in the debate, praising the
performance of Clinton, Richardson and Biden.
“I don’t think last night was a very good night for Obama, but he
still has a pull among college students, given his message of change
and reform,” Scala said.
And if you get the students to like you, it’s possible they might join
your team and do all the repetitive, clerical drudge work crucial to a
successful campaign, Scala added.
Dartmouth’s President James Wright looked proudly at the room of
energized students.
“Here’s a good place to be,” he said,noting the disorganized nature of
Spin Alley.