Friday, January 20, 2012

Don't expect droves of young voters in South Carolina (or beyond)

Like you, I much preferred last night's debate to previous ones because the exchange delivered each candidate on the stage an adequate opportunity to highlight his distinctions.

But I'd be lying if I said I'm not debate-fatigued. We're nearing 20 GOP debates this cycle and few things have changed. Newt Gingrich still loves belittling the moderators, Mitt Romney still loves playing the role of the frontrunner, Ron Paul still loves lecturing his opponents on econoimcs and Rick Santorum still loves attacking everyone else on stage.

And last night's debate did little to win over young voters.

The issues that matter most to young voters - jobs, education affordability, foreign wars, drug policy - weren't discussed at all.

And, with the exception of Ron Paul, who always boasts support among young voters, the candidates didn't do much to help themselves with Gen Y.

Romney dodged questions about his tax returns, and Newt's insistence that he didn't ask for an "open marriage" came across as disingenuous.

The inability of all the remaining candidates who aren't named Ron Paul, combined with a staunch conservative electorate that plays against the Texas congressman's strengths, will lead to a continued dip in young voter turnout when South Carolina goes to the polls.

Even if Paul continues to capture a substancial chunk of the youth vote (which I believe he will, and as he did in Iowa and New Hampshire), if he fails to secure 20 percent of the vote, then the mainstream media will go back to completely ignoring him.

As we've both written here before, that's a mistake.

Paul's ability to mobilize the young wing of the GOP is vital to the party's long-term viability.

Wall Street Journal economist and editorial board member Stephen Moore articulated this argument brilliantly.

So, Alexander, will the GOP (and the media) finally embrace Paul? If not, what does this mean for youth turnout on the right of the aisle in 2014 and 2016?

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