Election Day is finally here, and the Democratic Party made one of its biggest final stands right on Penn’s campus.
At one of the last Democratic rallies this election season, First Lady Michelle Obama spoke to a crowd of 3,500 Penn students and community members in the frigid November weather about the stakes of Tuesday’s midterm election.
“This election is about all we have left to do,” Obama said. “So let me ask you — can we do this?”
Some classes were forced to relocate as a result of the rally. Houston, College and Claudia Cohen halls were all closed to students for security purposes Monday afternoon, according to an e-mail from Office of Student Affairs Executive Director Karu Kozuma.
A litany of Pennsylvania Democrats joined the First Lady in front of Houston Hall, including Democratic senatorial nominee Joe Sestak and gubernatorial nominee Dan Onorato. Sen. Robert Casey, Sen. Arlen Specter, U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, Mayor Michael Nutter and Gov. Ed Rendell were also present. Specter, Fattah, Nutter and Rendell are all Penn alumni.
The First Lady’s trip comes just two days after President Barack Obama’s visit to Temple University on Saturday, highlighting the importance Democrats are placing on Pennsylvania this election season.
“[They] don’t think you’re showing up to vote,” Onorato said to the Penn student-dominated crowd, explaining that experts expect a drop-off in turnout from those 25 and under.
College Democrats of America Communications Director Michael Worley attributed this focus to the number of student and union voters in the state. “Turning out these key constituencies will play an important role in getting Democrats like Joe Sestak and Dan Onorato elected,” Worley wrote in an e-mail.
For some Democratic leaders on campus, the specific focus on Philadelphia is directly related to the traditional role the city plays in offsetting Republican turnout in other parts of the state.
“In the last 20 years, every time a Democrat in a statewide race has won Philadelphia by 350,000 votes, the Democrat has won,” Penn Democrats Deputy Political Director and Wharton sophomore Troy Daly said.
With the focus of the election now strictly on turnout — an area in which polls suggest Republicans have a significant advantage — the rallies are designed to raise enthusiasm among Democratic supporters.
A Gallup poll conducted from Sept. 20 to 26 indicated that 20 percent more Republicans than Democrats were “very enthusiastic about voting.”
“[Republican] enthusiasm is already there,” said College Republicans Treasurer and Wharton junior Charles Gray. However, he also admitted that the Obama rallies do “make a difference.”
“It really does build an enthusiasm that Republicans will have to counter,” Gray, a former Daily Pennsylvanian columnist, added.
Some Democrats at the rally discounted the importance of these polls. “There’s only one poll that counts,” Nutter said. “It’s the poll that opens at 7 a.m. tomorrow.”
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday. Penn Leads the Vote will staff a table on Locust Walk throughout the day, providing information on polling locations across campus.