Democrats campaign and protest in battleground state of Ohio

Louisville junior Miles Morton hoists an Obama sign high while in line with fellow Democratic students at the Republican rally in West Chester, Ohio. The group came to protest the rally and brought signs into the line by hiding them under their jackets.

Cameron Koch

Cincinnati — As Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney rolled into West Chester, Ohio with a police car escort Friday night for a rally, thousands of people erupted into cheers and applause – excluding six Democratic WKU students, each clutching a sign in support of President Barack Obama.

Passers-by in support of Romney often smiled and laughed as they noticed the signs and walked on. Others muttered rude comments under their breath, while a select few shook hands with and applauded the students for exercising their First Amendment rights.

“There’s so many of them and so few of us,” Katherine Rogers, a junior from Glasgow, said as she stood in the long line of Republican supporters waiting to get a glimpse of Romney. “I feel like I’m being stared at, like I’m being judged.”

The protest of the Republican rally attended by an estimated 30,000 people marked the high point of a weekend long effort by six students to claim the battleground state for president Obama, some traveling as part of a campaign management class taught by Saundra Ardrey, political science department head. Seven Republican students also made the trip to campaign for Romney.

Louisville junior Miles Morton said the amount of political protest and activity in Ohio surprised him, especially when compared to the relatively little activity in his hometown of Louisville and in Bowling Green.

“Here it puts it in perspective,” Miles said. “Here, this is war.”

He admired those out in support of their candidates and wished people back in Bowling Green would take their opinions a step further.

“If you are really true to what you stand for, take the next step (and volunteer),” Miles said. “There’s so many people in Kentucky talking about Obama, Obama, Obama, but at the same time, what are you doing?”

From campaign office to campaign office, door to door, the students helped out in any way they could. Whether it be attending a photo shoot with senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett or knocking on doors and encouraging strangers to vote, the group maintained a frantic pace throughout the weekend.

The group stayed at the home of Jeanne Corwin, a Democratic volunteer who opened up her home for out of town campaign workers. Corwin met Ardrey and the six students for the first time on Friday when they arrived.

“It’s my way to contribute,” Corwin said. “We can hopefully all contribute in our own way.”

No matter where they arrived, the numerous volunteers working the Democratic field offices throughout Cincinnati were always happy for the students help. The campaign office managers continually stressed the need of volunteers to go door-to-door and encourage low propensity voters  voters who don’t vote in every election  to get out and vote on Nov. 6 or even vote early if possible.

One such manager was Miriam Sapiro, an ambassador for the U.S. Trade Representative. She volunteered her time for the weekend to help Obama’s campaign in Ohio, the state she viewed as essential to winning the election.

“I wanted to come to southwest Ohio because there is so much attention right now on winning this state,” Sapiro said. “I’m feeling very good about our chances of winning here.

“By now a lot of voters have made up their mind,” Saprio said. “Just getting the information out to people so they know exactly where to vote … to encourage them to vote early. Volunteers are very important in getting that information out there.”

Rogers said as she walked from door to door that she understood the importance of getting voters to the polls and encouraging them to help the Democratic cause.

“It’s good to actually get out and talk to the people and see them instead of just talking to them on the phone,” she said. “It’s important to let them know we are out here and that they can come help too.”

In an unsuccessful effort to obtain tickets for an Obama rally to be held Sunday night, the students led by Ardrey scrambled around downtown Cincinnati Friday, where they encountered Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein delivering a speech in front of a small crowd of supporters.

The Democrats paid little attention to Stein and learned a few minutes later that their car had been towed.

Despite the minor setback, the Democrats recovered quickly in an effort to get to the Republican rally featuring Romney, his wife Ann and running mate Paul Ryan.

Each student stuffed Obama signs reading “Forward” under their winter coats upon parking and walking towards the line for the Romney rally, attempting to not draw suspicion from the thousands of Romney supporters. Once in line however, the students and Ardrey revealed their true blue colors.

Ardrey and several of the students discussed their political beliefs with those standing in line.

London freshman Zach Miller was hesitant to hold his sign up at first as disapproving glances from those walking by washed over the few Democrats in a sea of Republicans.

“I’m picking my moment,” Miller said. Soon after, his sign slowly raised high above his head, joining his fellow Democrats.

“These are the last five days Obama will ever campaign,” Miller said prior to the rally. “I wanted to be a part of that.”