Vice President Joe Biden addresses the crowd at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Friday, October 26th. (Tim Shaunnessey)
Adele Parks is a high school student from Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Generally on a Friday morning she should be at school. Not on that day, though; she was on an entirely different campus. Specifically, she was at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, as part of a line that formed in front of the university’s Albee Hall Friday morning in anticipation of a campaign visit from Vice President Joe Biden.
Shouldn’t she have been in class?
“It doesn’t matter,” Parks said with a laugh, “this is way more important.”
That kind of enthusiasm was widespread in the chilled morning air, and by the time doors opened for the event around 9 a.m. the line to enter stretched for more than a block.
John Hoffman, an Oshkosh resident, was in line early. Hoffman—who said he had manned phones for the effort to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker earlier in the year— said Biden’s visit was something that he felt compelled to attend.
“My wife and I already voted Monday, but I wouldn’t miss this,” he said. He noted that he and his wife both voted solely for Democrats.
Further back in the line, Keith Schwartz—a former Chicagoan now residing in Oshkosh—said he wanted to hear from Biden, but already supports the Obama campaign because he believes in Obamacare and expects the president to make financial issues less taxing for middle-class college students.
“My fiancée is in college and I trust that [Obama] is going to do something really good for college students,” Schwartz said. “I don’t think Romney will; he’s more for the rich, and Obama is for the middle class.”
Kaitlyn Simonsmeier, who attends the Whitewater campus of the University of Wisconsin, said she happened to be in Oshkosh when her mother alerted her that Biden was going to be speaking, and made her way over. She said many of her peers simply don’t care about such matters at all, and she wished more young people were interested and involved in the electoral process.
“I know a lot of young people who have the opportunity to vote, and they just don’t seem that interested in it,” Simonsmeier said.
Still, there were plenty of young voices chanting and cheering in the small gym that reportedly housed 1,000 people during the event.
Biden took the stage around 11 a.m. and was met with cheers and applause. The vice president’s remarks ran the gamut from healthcare to ridiculing Mitt Romney’s foreign policy capacities, which he said hearken back to the Cold War. For the students in the crowd, he touted the Obama administration’s support of Pell Grants and tax credits for tuition expenses. He made a point of appealing to both the student and middle class demographics; the former is the foundation of the latter, he said, to particularly thundering applause.
Among the standard-issue stump, Biden, along with other speakers, made a point to urge attendees to vote early. In fact, immediately after the event, there was transport available to ferry voters to the local convention center, where they could cast their ballot. The Obama administration has been promoting early voting, with both the President and First Lady making their early votes momentary centers of public attention.
Prior to the event, numerous attendees repeatedly listed three topics they wanted addressed: the economy, equity for women, and—as befit the location—college costs. Afterward, a number of students filing out of the building said they were satisfied with the way Biden acknowledged and addressed those issues.
Amanda Haas, a sophomore studying social work at the Oshkosh campus, said she was very happy with the way Biden made his case to the crowd. She described herself as very strongly in support of the Obama campaign. So much so, in fact, she was well ahead of Biden’s urging to vote early, and voted a month ago. She described Biden as “awesome,” and was pleased he covered issues for college students and women’s equity.
Another sophomore, Brianna Stacey, agreed with Haas, saying the Vice President’s performance exceeded what she had anticipated.
“[Biden] was amazing,” Stacey said. “[He was] a lot better than I expected and covered a lot of the points I was looking for.”