Diverse Obama supporters attend local watch party

Thursday, January 3, 2008 | 10:38 p.m. CST; updated 3:52 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 12, 2008

COLUMBIA — A life-long Republican as well as the executive co-director of Black Women for Obama, gathered with about 15 other friends and supporters to watch the results of the Iowa Caucus at a home in north-central Columbia on Thursday night.

Columbia resident Khesha Duncan, of Black Women for Obama, questioned who could doubt Obama now after his win in Iowa. Duncan is an MU employee and plans to travel to South Carolina next week to campaign for Obama. Duncan declined to disclose her age but assured, "I am old enough to vote."

Rock Bridge senior Elise Presser, 17, registered to vote this week, as soon as she legally could.

"I'm excited. It't been a long time coming," she said. "High school students are willing to go out and change the world if it's something they believe in."

Presser said she has been active in politics since she was 10, and though she won't be of age to vote in Missouri's primary, she'll be working at a precinct station.

Real Estate manager Mark Stevenson, 58, calls himself "a Republican for Obama."

"I've been a voter and a Republican all my life," he said. "I'm for Obama because I think he'll do a better job of improving the lives of middle-class and lower-class Americans, which the current Republican politicians have ignored."

Craig Smith, 46, who lent his home on Clinkscales Road to the Mid-Missouri for Obama watch party, said that he backs Obama because he’s a fresh candidate who represents change and because he shares some of Obama’s progressive ideas. He hopes more young people will turn out to support Obama.

Mid-Missouri for Obama organized a door-to-door canvassing event last summer, held a barbecue and set up information tables to recruit volunteers at the Boone County Fair and Twilight Festivals. It has gathered the names of 340 supporters.

Member Bill Monroe, a 65-year-old public health nurse at the Columbia/Boone County Health Department, said he has been backing Obama since February.

“Winning the Iowa caucus will be Obama’s springboard (to winning in other states),” Monroe said. “People want to see him elected because we believe he has a vision for changes.”

Monroe said that Columbia supporters went to help the Obama campaign on Dec. 27 and that some plan to move to New Hampshire this week to prepare for Tuesday’s primary.

Volunteers from Columbia worked in Iowa throughout the week to make phone calls to tell people where they are campaigning and identify potential Democratic voters, he said. Several helped out on Thursday, some by baby-sitting voters’ children in hopes of getting a better turnout.

“I met different kinds of folks there,” Monroe said of the few days he spent in Iowa. “There are a lot of people working for MU or MU students. Usually people who can afford to take a week out of their holiday there are associated with the university.”

Not everyone at the watch party was rooting for Obama, though.

“I’m waiting for Dennis Kucinich to surge,” Jim Borwick, 43, said.

Missourian reporter Molly Frankel contributed to this report.

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