COLUMBUS, Ohio – Erik Meinhardt, a sophomore at Ohio State University and chair of Ohio State’s chapter of Students for Hillary, has skipped classes for the past week to campaign for Sen. Hillary Clinton. But lately he’s been finding it difficult to get other students to share his enthusiasm.
Meinhardt said he’s been struggling to influence students to attend pro-Hillary events on campus. Only Meinhardt and an Ohio State alumna showed up at an open discussion held by Students for Hillary and the National Organization for Women. Yesterday, a two-hour “Honk for Hillary” event drew 15 Ohio State students who waved signs at a major intersection near campus.
“People tell me they can’t campaign because they have class,” Meinhardt said. “It’s like, come on.”
Meinhardt said he’s neglected all his classes to dedicate his time to campaigning, despite his upcoming midterm exams.
While discouraged by the lack of turnout, Meinhardt said he was also frustrated by Clinton’s campaign, which hasn’t been heavily targeting college students. The fliers that the Clinton campaign gave Meinhardt to pass out on campus call Clinton “the only candidate with the experience to deliver solutions to American families.” The materials, Meinhardt said, would easily bore students.
Though he received some help from campaign staffers at the Clinton campaign’s Ohio headquarters in Columbus, Meinhardt has been the sole organizer of Clinton efforts on Ohio State’s campus. The Obama campaign has an office staffed by paid campaign workers within walking distance of Ohio State’s campus, in addition to their main Ohio office in Columbus.
In a stark contrast to Clinton’s shortage of students, Obama’s Ohio campaign offices are swarmed with them – a reflection of Obama’s strong support from the student demographic coming into today’s primary.
Ashley Germann, an Ohio State junior and a volunteer coordinator for Ohio State’s Students for Obama chapter, estimated that about 50 students canvassed campus neighborhoods to drum up support for Obama over the weekend.
Obama supporters went door-to-door to tell registered Democrats about Obama’s plans to make college more affordable, said Kelan Craig, an Ohio State graduate student and member of Students for Obama.
Obama has proposed providing $4,000 tax credits for college students who participate in community service projects throughout their college careers. Obama said he would offer grants to offset two-thirds of public and community college costs.
Craig said the program should appeal to students who want to give back to their communities but are struggling to pay tuition. When canvassing, Craig told potential voters of his experience working with AmeriCorps – a volunteer network similar to some programs proposed by Obama.
“A lot of people are interested – it’s a big incentive,” Craig said. “People would like to volunteer, but having two part time jobs get in the way of that.”
Clinton has proposed a similar incentive. During a speech at Cleveland State University on Sunday, she said students who enlist in national service should be able to attend college for free. Graduates entering public service fields, like nursing or law enforcement, should have their debt forgiven over time, she said.
At a town hall meeting in Parma Heights, Ohio this weekend, Obama said offering tax incentives to college students who participate in community service programs or public service is within the country’s reach.
“The problem is not that we don’t know what to do,” Obama said, “but that we have not had the will to do it.”