Ohio youth vote looms large in campaigns' early voting strategies

Even Republicans admit there was something “electric” about Barack Obama campaign events on college campuses in 2008. They were typically packed with young people, some waiting  in line for hours to see and hear the man who would be the next president of the United States.

Now seeking a second term, the president can still draw a crowd, but the magic of '08? That’s another thing.

"I think it would be kind of hard for anybody to duplicate 2008 on the Obama side,” says Paul Beck , professor emeritus at Ohio State University. “He was a kind of a rock star candidate, very exciting."

That’s not to say Obama backers at OSU have stopped trying to deliver young voters in this critical battleground state. They have been at work for months, coaxing out-of-state students to register to vote in Columbus.

"I'm from Newport Beach, Calif.,” says fashion design major Sarah Dickler, “but I registered here because I was told that it would make a greater impact if I voted here in, you know, a swing state."

The College Democrats organization has been sheparding young people to one of the buses that run three times a day to early-voting locations.

“I cast the first ballot in Franklin County," Sara Valentine, an OSU student, said. "I'm 20 years old. We had a whole sleepover of people of my age, young voters who are so excited about this election.”

The stakes in 2012 are higher in Ohio because the race is closer. And there are signs the young Obama supporters have work yet to do.

In the wards that make up the OSU neighborhood, 5,829 early votes were cast, either absentee or in person. With 12 days until Election Day, the same wards have produced 3,014 early votes.

Also different this election is a visible and active opposition.

"We've had over a thousand students this year say they want to be involved with College Republicans," OSU senior Niraj Antani said. "We've knocked on over 10,000 doors. We've made over 25,000 phone calls on behalf of the Romney-Ryan ticket."

There is also the job market to contend with. The still sluggish economy has dimmed post-graduation job prospects, and that too has nibbled into the president’s popularity.

But the faithful insist, if there is a sluggishness among young voters, it is nothing more than the usual, youthful procrastination.

“We don't do anything until the last minute," Kyle Strickland of the OSU College Democrats siad. "It's definitely a challenge to get people to do things right away."