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Students Key to Obama Pennsylvania Win

Major U.S. news networks have called the state of Pennsylvania for Democrat Barack Obama. Obama's victory in Pennsylvania will bring him 21 electoral votes, putting him closer to winning the presidency. Rival John McCain had poured in resources trying to win the state, but even before Tuesday's vote there were signs the Obama campaign's ground game was more effective in two important areas: mobilizing support among young people and reaching out to undecided voters. VOA's Bill Rodgers reports.

Student volunteers for Democrat Barack Obama at Penn State University. As Election Day approached, they stepped up their efforts to get students to register and vote for Obama.

And the gentle, friendly persuasion got results.

"We've registered more students here, more than in any other college campus in the nation," says Zachary Zabel, the head of Penn State Students for Obama. He says there is a reason why they were so successful. "It's really just students contacting other students, using new forms of technology like Facebook, text messaging, that campaigns never really used before."

And knowing how to reach young people is something the Obama campaign understood early, according to Penn State political scientist Michael Berkman. "The McCain campaign actually never really caught on to this whole cell phone thing. But from the very beginning the Obama campaign has been harvesting cell phone numbers. So any event you ever go to for Obama, especially around a college campus, they will ask people to text in. And what they're doing when you text in is they're harvesting your cell phone number."

And using that information to mobilize support and voter turnout.

Outreach from Obama field offices also was effective. It differed from the McCain campaign. Instead of programmed phone calls, those working for Obama strove to engage undecided voters.

The tactic worked, says Randall Miller, history professor at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia. "It's not just getting information, what have you; they try to connect up with people. They have literally a conversation about politics. And that's a way of literally of drawing people in so they begin to feel invested in the Obama candidacy. It's very, very smart; it's very, very modern."

And may have made all the difference for Barack Obama in Pennsylvania.