November 4, 2008

Obama’s most fervent supporters also most frazzled

Second-year Mark Redmond pulled two straight all-nighters last week—not unusual during midterms, but this was no academic matter. The real culprit was repeated forays into neighboring swing-state Indiana.

Redmond is one of many U of C students supporting Senator Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. But he is also part of a smaller group: the league of hardcore supporters with so much Obama fervor they’ve sacrificed their social lives, grades, and, of course, their shut-eye, for the Illinois junior Senator.

“I was hyped up on coffee for a while,” Redmond said.

It hasn’t been easy to balance class and campaigning. For MarLa Duncan, the campaign has made its way into her dreams. Duncan—who interned at Obama’s headquarters, co-coordinates Students for Barack Obama (SFBO), and served as a general campaign volunteer—has a recurring campaign nightmare.

“I was so busy and distracted that I forgot to vote! Needless to say, I went and waited for five hours in an early voting line just to be sure something didn’t happen on election day,” she said in an e-mail interview. “I had a midterm [paper] due the next day, and just wrote it on the pieces of notebook paper I had with me, while standing in line.”

Students’ sense of urgency has increased as Election Day approaches.

Walking through the quad before the election, Amanda Wingate, SFBO co-leader, yelled out for the “last call for hope and change.” The tactic worked: She successfully convinced another student to volunteer on Election Day.

When Rebecca Maurer, another co-leader of SFBO, sent out a last minute e-mail to confirm volunteers for the final few days of the campaign, she was pleasantly surprised to find a response that read, “I’ve had a rather limited experience in SFBO thus far. There are always lots of little reasons not to commit, but I feel like I can’t pass this up.”

For Maurer and Wingate, the buildup to the election has been hectic. Maurer called the mere hour won from daylight savings “a gift.”

When Wingate hears her alarm in the morning, her first thought is, “I’m getting frantic texts from people saying the bus to Indiana was leaving,” she said.

The drive to campaign hasn’t always meshed with academics, especially when she has to write a paper on electoral forecasting in Gary, IN, the very battleground state where she has focused her efforts.

“I’d rather be in Gary than writing about it,” she said.

With all of this effort aimed at Election Day, there may be cause for concern about life after the vote. Duncan’s friends feared she might go into post-election withdrawal.

“My friends made me go to the RSO fair this year just so I could find a ‘new hobby’ for when the campaign ended!” she said. “I think they are all secretly afraid I am gonna slip into a state of depression when my life is significantly less Obama-filled.”

For Maurer, post-election life is an afterthought.

“The world doesn’t exist for me after Tuesday,” she said.