Barack Obama has been holding several events at universities in critical swing states, like Ohio and Pennsylvania. It's a not-too-subtle indication that the president, looking ahead to 2012, wants to reconnect with his base: college students. The Washington Post reports:
At the universities — both of which are in politically important states — the president popped unexpectedly into nondescript campus conference rooms, surprising small groups of students who had responded to invitations to meet with mid-level White House aides.
“We are so interested in figuring out how to get your ideas, your input, your energy,” Obama told a group of student leaders from Cleveland State and nearby schools. He shook each participant’s hand and posed for a group photo.
And they've enlisted Hollywood's Kal Penn, who is best known for playing the role of a habitual pot smoker:
The White House announced a plan last week to hold at least 100 roundtables this spring at which administration officials will meet with young people. The administration also will solicit ideas from young people through a series of national conference calls, Web chats and other forums. In addition, the White House enlisted Kalpen Modi, the 33-year-old actor known as Kal Penn who played the character Kumar in the popular Harold and Kumar stoner movies, as its top youth liaison....
The new dynamics have complicated White House efforts to connect. Before Obama joined the Penn State roundtable, for instance, Modi sought to inspire the students to combat apathy and encourage activism on grand causes such as saving the environment and helping the people of Darfur.
But the student body president, Christian Ragland, wanted to talk about something closer to home: the deep higher-education cuts being proposed by Pennsylvania’s new Republican governor.
“For me, when he talked about apathy, the first thing I thought of was tuition hikes and getting students to be involved in that process,” Ragland said later.
Modi didn’t have much to offer. He replied that the federal government couldn’t do anything about state action, but he promised to stay in touch with the students and bring their concerns to the president.