Posted at 01:14 PM ET, 05/04/2012

Ahead of campaign kick-off, VCU students say Obama needs to ‘wake up Virginians’

President Obama’s campaign kickoff Saturday in Virginia holds a special challenge for him: Turning out the youth vote is key to his reelection.

But many students at Virginia Commonwealth University, where the president will address supporters in the afternoon, are far from reaching their enthusiasm levels of 2008.

“I think a lot of people that were pro-Obama and very supportive of him in the 2008 elections, are kind of on the edge now,” said VCU junior Katheryn Witt.

While Obama and his campaign strive to gain the same momentum as four years ago, students have noticed a mood change on campus in downtown Richmond. “The mood is more subdued this time,” said VCU junior Andrew Ephraim. “I think once he unveils what he plans on working on, the excitement will come back again.”

A Washington Post poll this week showed Obama ahead of presumed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in Virginia, but a high youth turnout for the president isn’t a guarantee.

“I think President Obama is aware that he needs to wake up Virginians,” said VCU senior Vicki Yeroian. “He needs to say, ‘Hey, I know you haven’t been that active in the past three years, so it’s time to get active again.’”

VCU sophomore Lawrence Thomas II thinks the presidential election will be much closer this time compared to 2008. “Obama’s been in office for four years, so obviously some of his faults are being highlighted and he has a record to run on now,” he said.

“2008 was really historical. It was the first time a minority was a candidate for president,” said VCU senior Alexsis Rodgers. “Now it’s more about keeping the ball rolling.”

But many VCU students also feel that the university’s Siegel Center is the right place for the president to begin his campaign and recapture the younger generation. Having popular VCU’s head basketball coach Shaka Smart introduce the president at Saturday’s rally won’t be a disadvantage either.

“He has to maintain his support from the young community,” said VCU senior T.C. Robinson. “He could improve his standing by coming to a college campus like VCU.”

Added Robinson: “It doesn’t matter if he’s a Republican or Democrat, he’s still the president and it’s still cool that he’ll be on the VCU campus.”

Khawaja is a student Virginia Commonwealth University and will participate in collaboration project between PostPolitics and student journalists that will launch later this spring. Follow her on Twitter @Samra_Khawaja.

By Samra Khawaja  |  01:14 PM ET, 05/04/2012

 
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