Why not us?
Obama visits three local colleges, skips USF
Published: Monday, September 10, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 10, 2012 01:09
He has visited the University of Tampa, Hillsborough Community College and St. Petersburg College.
But as President Barack Obama rallied a crowd of 11,000 at St. Petersburg College’s Seminole campus on Saturday, the mention of student loans and the affordability of higher education elicited a cheer from an audience he has yet to visit:
“Yay! Go USF Bulls!” the crowd cheered, Stacy Dolan, a junior majoring in political science, said.
Dolan, like many other USF students, has visited the presidents at many of his previous stops in the Bay area.
But after the president’s third visit to the area this year, many are asking, ‘Why not USF?’
Dolan, who sat behind the president at Saturday’s rally, said she thinks the president favors smaller areas.
“I’ve noticed a trend in that usually when he visits the Bay area and he visits colleges, he likes to focus on community colleges, because a lot of people who go to community colleges happen to benefit from his student loan programs and he really likes to make sure that smaller community colleges get recognition that they wouldn’t get otherwise,” she said. “I think that’s what keeps him from going to somewhere like USF, which is a little more — not necessarily mainstream — but gets more attention than a local community college would.”
USF political science professor and political analyst Susan MacManus said it’s not time to rule out a campus visit yet.
“You’re going to see the candidates, one or the other, in the Tampa Bay media market, pretty much just about every week, or every other week at the absolute outset,” she said. “Florida is a must-have state for both parties. ... There’s a lot of different reasons. This is the largest media market in the state, and it’s evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. It’s big and it’s extremely competitive. There’s a lot of independent voters as well. It’s a must-have part of the state, and it’s been this way for the last few election cycles.”
MacManus said often the locations picked for such events are a matter of logistics.
“A lot of times it has to do with access and being able to secure a campus. With a smaller campus it’s easier to do that, and overflow crowds make better television than underflow crowds,” she said. “I think a lot of it is a security dimension. I honestly do expect him to come to our campus at some point. There’s still a pretty good ways from now until the election and there’s plenty of time for him to come to USF Tampa.”
College student voters, she said, are an important voting bank to Obama.
“One of the reasons he’s going to college campuses is because the youth vote is what put him over the top in Florida in 2008,” MacManus said. “There’s been some erosion of support for him over the last four years, which is true of any incumbent. One of the concerns is that young turnout won’t be as high, so they’re really trying to ramp up the youth vote, because it really is an integral part of the Democrats’ base.”
Dolan, who said she would love to see Obama visit campus, said no experience can top seeing the president in action.
“It’s fantastic,” she said. “It’s like meeting a celebrity, almost, except that the celebrity cares about you and wants you to do well. Just to be that close to the most powerful man in the world is incredible. No matter where you’re standing in that area, if you see him speak, he’s just completely