Election reflection

By Kyle Kramer

The people have decided. More than 130 million Americans voted, or 64 percent of the registered… The people have decided. More than 130 million Americans voted, or 64 percent of the registered voters, and ultimately elected Sen. Barack Obama as the next president of the United States. Just two days after Election Day, Pitt students and professors are anticipating what the next four years will bring. Although Obama’s victory matched expectations, the election still presented some surprises, said Pitt political science professor Jonathan Hurwitz. Obama’s acquisition of the popular vote in three swing states was one such surprise. According to Hurwitz, Obama had been expected to carry Pennsylvania. Until the election, however, a win in Ohio was uncertain. Obama’s latent victory in Florida further cemented the Democratic candidate’s success. For Obama supporters following the elections from a frenzied Democratic campaign headquarters, such surprises deepened the camp’s confidence, according to Pitt College Democrat Vice President Lana Stec. Stec said, ‘Everyone freaked out’ at the Obama headquarters after yet another unexpected win in Virginia. Virginia has since become the subject of some controversy. Since Tuesday, political blogs have been plastered with claims of polling irregularities and lost votes. According to Hurwitz, such claims should prove inconsequential because the popular vote leaned ‘a little bit closer’ to Obama than expected. ‘These types of stories only carry traction in close elections,’ said Hurwitz. Amidst these Election Day surprises, the Pitt College Republican supporters of Sen. John McCain only saw their expectations realized, according to the group’s president, Pat Graham. ‘Nothing really shocked us,’ said Graham. ‘We had our hopes, but we pretty much expected what would happen.’ Another development on election night was the surge in turnout, which was a ‘modest surprise,’ said Hurwitz. State representative Dan Frankel, D-Squirrel Hill, on the other hand, said Pitt’s voter participation was unprecedented. ‘We anticipated a huge turnout, but nothing like this,’ said Frankel, standing among the lines at Soldiers ‘amp; Sailors Memorial. Frankel added that the polling stations had not been designed to handle such voter volume. Hurwitz said the high turnout was a symptom of Obama’s successful political strategy. Obama campaigned heavily in states such as Indiana, Virginia and North Carolina but not necessarily to change voter’s minds. ‘Their best chance wasn’t to convert voters but to increase turnout in general,’ said Hurwitz. ‘It’s a strategy that was effectively exploited by Obama.’ As a generational candidate with minority appeal, Obama was able to attract typically non-participating 19-29-year-old and minority demographics to the polls, said Hurwitz. He said that the strategy also aided in converting Hispanic voters, who do not usually vote Democratic. Obama’s strength laid in his ability to make minority and lower class voters, who had previously not felt like part of the political system, feel more a part of the democratic process. Hurwitz compared Obama and his campaign to that of Sen. Robert Kennedy, who enacted a new political era to young and minority voters. ‘To a large extent, you are going to find that young people in America are going to find that same sort of phenomena,’ said Hurwitz. Some Republicans have a different theory. The real reason for Obama’s victory over McCain, according to Graham, was money. Graham said over the course of the election, the Obama campaign outspent the McCain campaign eight to one ‘mdash; a figure confirmed by the Wisconsin Advertising Project. ‘Obama was pretty much buying the election,’ said Graham. ‘We had to fight to get posters and flyers from the McCain campaign.’ The College Republicans also spent less time campaigning for McCain and more time volunteering for candidates for local office. ‘Working for a national campaign, most people feel like a drop in a bucket,’ said Graham. The College Republicans campaigned almost exclusively in the suburbs surrounding Pittsburgh. Stec said that the city of Pittsburgh is Democratic enough that ‘it’s not worth [the College Republicans’] time to stay in the city.’ The precincts that make up Pittsburgh voted 75 percent in favor of Obama, according to Hurwitz. This reassured the Pitt Democrats. ‘We always felt that Pa. was going to go the way that Pittsburgh and Allegheny County went,’ said Stec. The United States lost its footing in the global community because of its international entanglements, like it has in Iraq, she said. Stec predicted a restoration of the United States’ pride and reputation internationally by Obama. During the election, Stec said she received texts from Australian friends she had made while studying abroad, rooting for Obama. The Pitt Democrats may see their predictions realized earlier than they think. In a press release published by the Venezuelan government yesterday morning, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a critic of the United States and bitter enemy of the Bush administration, congratulated Obama on his election. Chavez had also stated his willingness to meet with Obama and discuss relations between the two countries in an earlier press release. With Obama as president, ‘The world is going to look at not just the American government, but the American people,’ said Hurwitz. As far as the College Republicans, Graham said that they remain disappointed but not surprised. ‘We’ll just have to see how everything goes from here,’ said Graham.