Posted: December 7, 2007 2:29 PM
Obama Reaches Out to Students, Welcomes Oprah to Campaign Trail
With the latest polls continuing to show Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., statistically tied with rival Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., in Iowa, the senator focused his attention on the Hawkeye State this week with three full days of campaign stops. On Monday, the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press released a poll showing Obama trailing Clinton by five points in the early caucus state.
With those numbers in mind, Obama took to the stump, beginning with a roundtable meeting in Des Moines on Monday. He continued through several other Iowa towns Tuesday and Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Obama participated in a radio debate sponsored by NPR and Iowa Public Television. The debate focused on three topics: Iran, trade with China and immigration. On immigration, Obama was asked if U.S. citizens should be punished for helping illegal immigrants.
“We’re not going to deputize a whole bunch of American citizens to start grabbing people or turning them in,” Obama said.
On Wednesday, the Illinois senator addressed students at Cornell College in Mt. Vernon about the importance of public service.
“I’m not going to tell you what your role should be; that’s for you to discover,” he told the students. “But I am going to ask you to play your part; ask you to stand up; ask you to put your foot firmly into the current of history.”
As part of the speech, Obama outlined his proposal for expanding service programs, which included plans to expand AmeriCorps, double the size of the Peace Corps, design national guidelines for service-learning in middle and high schools and create a tuition break for college students who complete 100 hours of service a year.
After the speech, the Obama campaign sent out a press release with experts praising his plan.
Obama’s visit to Cornell College was part of a concerted effort by his campaign to rally students to participate in January’s caucuses. His efforts, however, will be complicated by the fact that this year’s caucuses are taking place during students’ winter vacations and that students traditionally have a low-turnout on caucus night.
“He wants to catch students before they head off for winter break; he implores them to caucus for him — a nettlesome issue since many of them … will be out of town,” writes Jennifer Hunter of the Chicago Sun-Times. “Obama’s campaign has gotten into a little hot water for offering to bus Iowa students — who go to school here but may live out of state — to the Iowa caucuses on Jan 3.”
As a result of Obama’s efforts, he received the endorsement of the Iowa State Daily, a student newspaper, this week. “Obama has not been afraid to throw a lot of his time and resources into trying to invigorate the younger crowd,” the editorial board writes. “This strategy has failed other candidates in the past, but we appreciate Obama’s commitment to the generation who will inherit the country. His message to those of all ages — even those who don’t vote in droves — is genuine and inspiring.”
And to round out the Obama campaign’s week-long efforts in Iowa, the campaign released a new “TV ad” titled “Moment” that features clips of his speech at the Iowa Jefferson Jackson dinner.
Next up for Obama is his big weekend with talk show host Oprah Winfrey. The two will appear at events in Iowa, South Carolina and New Hampshire this Saturday and Sunday. But his plans may be thwarted by a necessary trip back to Washington.
“Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wants Obama and the three other Senate Democrats running for president to spend Saturday morning in the Capitol, to help swing what for now appears to be a too-close-to-call procedural vote,” reports Shailagh Murray of the Washington Post “At stake is an ambitious energy package that includes provisions to expand the use of renewable electricity sources and increase fuel efficiency for vehicles.”
Obama’s wife, Michelle, is also supposed to join Obama and Winfrey on the trail. The schedule includes kicking off holiday season Toys for Tots drives — some of the events have become so popular they have been moved to larger venues.