Amalia Oulahan

The race for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination is at full boil, and living up to its early slogan, Barack Obama’s campaign has young voters and activists “Fired up, ready to go!” His grassroots campaign is causing nationwide “Obamamania,” putting a fresh spin on enthusiastic students in electoral politics.

On campus: Communication Senior Leah Nelson formed Northwestern Students for Barack Obama last summer at a Camp Obama weekend training session. “We learned to organize people within our own communities,” Nelson says. “I decided to take the initiative and put that knowledge toward organizing students on campus.”

With about 50 active members, Northwestern Students for Barack Obama has organized volunteer canvassing trips to Iowa, Missouri and Wisconsin this year. The group is currently working on sending volunteers to Ohio. Group members frequently volunteer at the Obama campaign phone bank in Chicago, making calls about their candidate to voters in states with impending primaries. Nelson says it wasn’t hard to find support for her project on campus. “Students from Chicago have really taken charge of going out to canvas in states where there might not be so much support,” she says.

On the streets: Student interns and volunteers from around the country have helped push the Obama campaign forward in every state. Ryan Erickson, Weinberg junior, worked as an intern in the Obama campaign office and says his experience showed him the positivity of a nationwide grassroots effort. “He has really been able to inspire people of our age group. The campaign is easily applicable to students who have grown up in a political culture driven by negativity,” he says. “He has a different style.”

Online: Candidates have been jockeying to reach out to voters through the Web, and Obama is no exception. Obamamania has hit Facebook, with groups in many college networks, as well as an application designed specifically for the campaign. The campaign’s high-tech Web site streams video and offers interactive areas where supporters can look for pro-Obama groups nearby, post to community blogs, and read news bits about local campaign efforts.

Medill sophomore Jessica Abels, a former Obama campaign intern who canvassed in her home state of Iowa before the caucuses, equates her candidate’s ability to generate support with a new sense of national unity. The Internet helps to unite the America’s youngest generation; Obama’s “Yes We Can” music video on YouTube has more than five million hits.

Abels thinks Obama’s campaign has targeted the student generation specifically. “Any candidate could have reached us on a new media level because we’re so connected,” she says. “But I think that his campaign is especially conducive to it because his message is so appealing to young people.”