Cal Poly Democrats President Kayla Clark never could have predicted the results of Tuesday night’s election.
The political science sophomore, along with the rest of the election viewing party attendees at The Graduate, was confident before polls closed that President Barack Obama would be reelected, she said. She never thought Obama’s victory would be declared so quickly, though.
“It was just like, ‘Oh. He won already. Wow,’” Clark said.
Both CNN and NBC projected Obama’s win at 8:20 p.m. on Tuesday, just 20 minutes after polls closed in California. All evening, the lead switched back and forth between Obama and Republican challenger Gov. Mitt Romney, with Romney leading in the popular vote for much of the evening.
By the end of the night, however, Obama was the clear winner, pulling 50 percent of the popular vote and 303 electoral votes to Romney’s 206.
The mood at The Graduate was one of excitement when Obama supporters realized he had won, Clark said.
“I started crying right away,” Clark said.
And the vote of young people such as Clark, the Cal Poly Democrats and other college students was pivotal in reelecting Obama, according to a study published Wednesday by USA Today.
At least 49 percent of eligible voters under 30 voted in Tuesday’s election, and 60 percent of those voters cast their vote for Obama, according to the study.
If those youth hadn’t voted, or if Romney had won 50 percent of the youth vote, Romney could have won Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Florida, all key swing states, according to the study.
In San Luis Obispo County, youth voter turnout and activism helped both the Obama campaign, and the campaign to reelect Democratic representative Lois Capps, Paso Robles Democratic Club President Larry Lynch said.
“The youth vote helped us turn those people out,” Lynch said.
Students from Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara volunteered to campaign for Capps and Obama in the 24th congressional district, and played an essential part in reelecting both, Lynch said.
Volunteer students also led efforts to register young voters in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, Lynch said.
“The students who showed up to work in this campaign were really effective and helpful,” Lynch said.
Democratic turnout may not have turned the tide for Obama in California, which hasn’t voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1988, but it did help Capps win the election locally, San Luis Obispo County Republicans Chairman John Peschong said.
“I think the Democrats really did come out to vote,” Peschong said.
Peschong was not surprised Obama won, based on polls that showed Obama ahead in most swing states, he said.
He was, however, disappointed.
Cal Poly Republicans president and graduate student Elena Reynolds was not surprised by Obama’s win either, she said.
She hoped Romney would do slightly better, though, she said.
“I thought Romney would do much better than he did,” Reynolds said.
The GOP also lost control of the Senate, giving Obama more control over decisions such as appointing Supreme Court justices, Reynolds said.
Tuesday’s election made it clear that Republicans need to grow their base, Reynolds said. The Republican Party as a whole will need to change its strategy in the future to make the party more appealing to younger voters, Reynolds said.
“Republicans are going to have a lot of work to do to get people enthusiastic about the party,” Reynolds said.
Many Cal Poly students were excited to see election results coming in.
Liberal studies freshman Alyse Fisse went to Vista Grande Café just to watch the election and was delighted when Obama was the projected winner, she said.
Fisse, who voted in her first presidential election this week, watched the debates and studied both candidates’ platforms before making a decision, and thought Obama would have a tough night ahead of him, she said.
“I was surprised at how fast it went,” Fisse said. “I was expecting more of a split decision.”
Not all students were supporters of Obama, however. Wine and viticulture junior Alec Perrucci felt neither Obama nor Romney was a good choice for president, Perrucci said.
“To be honest, when I was going to vote, I was having a really difficult time voting because I didn’t really want to vote for anyone,” Perrucci said.
Perrucci wasn’t content with Obama’s lack of progress over the past four years. In the next four, Perrucci hopes the president will take more concrete steps toward getting the economy back on track, he said.
And Perrucci hasn’t seen Obama’s biggest achievement, health care, have much of an impact either, he said.
“I don’t really thing he did anything too big,” Perrucci said.