Chants of “O-ba-ma, O-ba-ma” echoed across Broadway Saturday afternoon at the opening of the Upper West Side Obama/Biden Campaign Center, the second Obama office in the city.
With exactly one month to go before the November election, the event at the new office, between 102nd and 103rd streets, was attended by local political luminaries as well as nearly 100 supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, CC ’83.
Rep. Charles Rangel pumped the crowd up, telling them that New York volunteers are important for the Obama campaign. “For our kids and our grandkids, we can’t afford the luxury of waiting to see what happens in November,” he said.
After his speech, he told Spectator, “We might be a blue state, but we have red blood in our veins, and the courage to make sure this fight goes on.”
Some attendees said they were unhappy with Obama’s widely criticized performance in the first presidential debate Wednesday night.
“This election is very, very close,” Minh Nguyen, a volunteer from the Upper West Side, said. “It wasn’t close two weeks ago, but it’s very close now.” Nguyen, who said he was worried Obama’s lead in the polls might waver, called the debate “a wake-up call” for the campaign.
Christine Verzar, another volunteer, said she was “disappointed in Obama’s affect” in the debate. “It was horrible to listen to all the lies that Romney was spewing,” Verzar said.
Rangel said voters would not be swayed by Romney’s performance.
“The arrogant contempt that Mitt Romney and the Republican Party have shown for decent Americans has at last been caught on tape, and he can’t run away from it,” the veteran congressman told the crowd.
Other Democrats, including City Council member Robert Jackson, said that the Obama campaign had reasons to remain optimistic, pointing to Friday’s announcement of the national unemployment rate, which at 7.8 percent has dipped below the 8 percent mark for the first time since January 2009.
“That’s due to President Obama,” Jackson told Spectator. “Clearly the country is happy to hear that—and obviously President Obama is also.”
Volunteers widely acknowledged that New York is a Democratic stronghold, and vowed to focus efforts toward persuading swing states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Virginia.
Besides manning phone banks and distributing materials, the campaign office has planned several bus trips to take volunteers into the crucial states to persuade “the significant level” of remaining undecided voters.
State Senator Bill Perkins, dressed in traditional bejeweled Nigerian attire, told the crowd that it was time for “the nitty-gritty work” of “getting on the phones and to the important parts of the country.”
“We may have it solid in New York,” he said. “But we have to make sure it’s solid in other places as well.”
Campaign offices in the city have always been an important engine for Democratic campaigns, according to State Democratic Committee Chair and Assembly member Keith Wright.
Political clubs like the Three Parks Independent Democrats and the Broadway Democrats, which both organized the event, “make this campaign the easiest campaign in the world,” Wright said.
Curtis Arluck, CC ’73, a Morningside Heights Democratic district leader and Broadway Democrats member, said he hopes the new office will bring out more college students in the push of the final month.
“Whether students vote at Wien Hall or in their home states, this campaign needs their energy and enthusiasm,” Arluck said.
Organizers said that the new office would serve as a draw for an increasing number of local volunteers, like Upper West Side residents and famed comedic duo Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, who stopped in to show their support.
“Everyone knows that the Upper West Side is going to go blue,” Stiller said. “But it’s still important for this office to be here, for people to know there’s a democratic hub. That’s good for the community.”
After the event, the crowd dissipated and volunteers went off to man a phone bank and reach a 968-call target for the weekend, conscious as ever of how much work remained to be done.