When John Kerry sought the Democratic nomination in the last presidential election, his biggest Iowa crowd before the state caucuses was about 1,500 people. At a University of Iowa rally last month, Barack Obama drew 10,000 -- many of them students.
The Illinois senator's candidacy has helped spark a surge in campus activism that he has moved quickly to harness, establishing 300 college chapters and working with students to organize many of his largest rallies.
The ferment may be unparalleled since 1968, when young voters rallied behind Senator Eugene McCarthy and his anti- Vietnam War platform, said David Rosenfeld, campus program director for the Student Public Interest Research Group, which encourages campus activism.``It's a generation that was already civically minded,'' Rosenfeld said, citing a series of close elections that have piqued student interest, debate over Iraq and the growth of online technology. ``Obama, who is charismatic and has some kind of youth mojo thing going on, steps up, and the thing takes off.''
Obama's strategy is visible on the Internet, where at least 325,000 young people have signed on to his biggest support network on Facebook.com. That far outpaces support for his main rival for the Democratic nomination, Senator Hillary Clinton.
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