TWO politics graduates working for a Lothians MSP are quitting their jobs at the Scottish Parliament to go to help Barack Obama win a second term in the White House as president of the United States.
Former Edinburgh University students Greg Black and Stuart Tooley have both spent more than a year working for Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale.
After getting to grips with Scottish politics, however, they have decided to head across the pond to join the Democrat campaign team in the run-up to November’s crucial election.
And the duo will be looking to play a pivotal role in the campaign by encouraging people to vote Obama in the “swing-state” of Virginia.
Greg, 22, said: “It’s such a once-in-a-lifetime experience, there’s no way I would let the opportunity go past. Obama inspired me a lot when I was studying politics.”
Greg said: “We will be working on the campaign for eight weeks, right up to the election on November 6. Virginia is a key battleground, stretching from the suburbs of Washington DC, which are quite Democrat, to more rural areas which vote Republican.
“We’ll be writing a blog while we’re out there with updates and, if we get the chance, something a bit more analytical.”
Greg, from Liberton, was in sixth year at Boroughmuir High when he attended a Scotland for Obama rally – organised by Ms Dugdale – outside the Scottish Parliament ahead of the 2008 presidential election.
He said despite polls indicating a close contest, he was in no doubt Obama was the best person to be president.
“He is a very bold politician. His intellect and idealism matched with his charisma and ability to get things done and to be pragmatic in doing it all is as good as anyone could really have hoped for.”
Latest polls show President Obama with a 47 per cent to 44 per cent lead over Republican candidate Mitt Romney in the battleground states.
Stuart, 23, from Newington, said he believed Obama would win. “American politics is so evenly divided you’re always going to have 40 per cent on one side, 40 per cent on the other and it’s a play for the middle 20 per cent. I guess that’s what makes campaigning so important, but I think Obama has the edge.”
He said one of the reasons for the trip was to explore the contrast between politics in Scotland and America.
“We want to learn what politics is like over there and hopefully bring some of it back,” he said.
Greg and Stuart are heading off along with former Edinburgh University Students Association president Matthew McPherson, 24, and Nigel Anthony, 21, who spent some time in the US during the 2010 mid-term elections.
Ms Dugdale said she regretted losing two of her staff, but backed their move. She said “I’m hugely excited for them – and a bit jealous.
“But what they are doing is really important. Whether we like it or not, what happens in America impacts on people’s lives here and we need Obama to win, the consequences of a Romney administration are too horrific to contemplate.”
NET GAINS FOR BARACK
BARACK Obama’s election in 2008 as the first African American president of the United States owed much to his message of change, the famous “Yes We Can” slogan, and the pioneering use of the internet in campaigning.
He used the internet to organise his supporters in a way that in the past would have needed an army of volunteers and paid organisers on the ground. Campaign websites allowed voters to listen to his speeches and gave him the chance to rebut attacks.
His campaign also took advantage of YouTube for free advertising – their official videos were watched online for 14.5 million hours. A similar amount of airtime would have cost about £30m on TV.