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Student energy for 2012 Obama visit different than 2008, experts say


By Matt Miller and Allison Sylte


It was 2008. Then Sen. Barack Obama’s hair was black. His healthcare plan was only a plan. And his message of “hope” and “change” was powerful enough to draw 50,000 people to the Oval to see him.

Cut to 2012. Sen. Obama is now the president of the United States. His hair has grayed and his healthcare plan has been put into action and judged by the U.S. Supreme Court. Instead of “hope” or “change,” his message is simply “forward.”

Instead of 50,000, his visit drew 13,000 to the Monfort Quad Tuesday afternoon to hear him speak as part of a campaign effort to engage young voters.

“2008 was in some ways unique,” Obama told the Collegian. “We had come off eight years of policies that obviously hadn’t been working for the country. We were still in the midst of two wars.  And what we saw in
2008 in terms of the incredible enthusiasm and energy of young people still amazes me.”

The line to see Obama speak in 2008 was two-and-a-half miles long, according to the Denver Post. Kevin Hollinshead, a political science graduate, waited nine hours that day to see the then-Senator speak.

“It was almost like a line to get into a concert or Broncos game, we were all very giddy,” Hollinshead said in an e-mail to the Collegian. “The moment [Obama] walked onstage in 2008 was a pretty good definition of the word “surreal.” I’ll always remember that day very fondly.”

According to political science professor John Straayer, the atmosphere in 2008 was a phenomena — a convergence of factors that are hard to recreate in 2012.

“That was unique in some ways, because for the first time ever you had an African American candidate, you have pent up frustration for the war — a sense of a need to change things and get away from the old regime” Straayer said. “This time around you’ve got an incumbent president.”

Straayer said some of this waning enthusiasm can be attributed to the difference between governing and campaigning.


“When you’re governing you’ve got to work with people and being ‘ra ra’ the time doesn’t get you there,” Straayer said. “When you’re campaigning it’s all out — here we go.”

This visit to CSU on the campaign trail also saw a change in Obama’s rhetoric — not just in the new “Forward” compared to “Hope” and “Yes We Can,” but in the narrowed focus of his campaign points

“Before, the picture in front of the public was: we’re coming off of eight years, things aren’t quite what we want, let’s have some change in more of a general sense,” Straayer said. “This time there’s more of a focus on what are you going to do with tax policy and who’s going to benefit.”

Hollinshead, who was an ardent Obama supporter in 2008, said he didn’t intend on voting for Obama in the upcoming election, citing his weakness in the face of “political pressure.”

“I believed in Obama in 2008,” Hollinshead said. “It saddens me that he hasn’t come close to earning my vote a second time.”

Other students disagreed, claiming that their support for Obama has increased over the past four years.

Fayiz Mahgoub, a senior biology major who also shook hands with the president after his speech, said he is inspired by Obama and still feels the exact way today.

“It was good to see that he was talking about effecting the actual changes we saw in 2008,” said Mahgoub, who could barely see Obama in the Oval after waiting in line for a few hours. “I didn’t feel any different today in terms of excitement because I know what he stands for.”

Content Managing Editor Matt Miller and Editor in Chief Allison Sylte can be reached at

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