Monday, April 30, 2012

With young voters, disinterest is Obama's biggest hurdle

Conservative bloggers and GOP operatives couldn't be more excited by the prospect of President Obama slipping with young voters. Unfortunately for them, I'm still not exactly buying it.

You see, Obama has, in fact, taken the exact advice we game him in the days following the State of the Union. At SCOOP2012, we opined that one potential strategy for monopolizing the youth vote would be to focus heavily on college affordability.

The President has done just that. He's made student loan debt the primary talking point for his many campus visits, and is scheduled to speak on it almost exclusively when he visits Ohio State University this Thursday.

This strategy has come under fire, but we've got to give Obama credit: he is going after young voters - hard.

But some are citing recent polling to suggest that Obama is losing his grip on the youth vote.

As Alexander pointed out in Friday's post, recent Gallup polls have shown Obama's advantage with young voters is not nearly as high as the final vote totals in his 2008 contest against John McCain.

I'd argue that the most damning polls are those showing that young voters simply don't care about this year's election. In fact, the most recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that just 45 percent of young voters polled are taking a big interest in the election. That's down from 63 percent in 2008.

Young voters, outraged by the war in Iraq and in an act of rebellion against one of most unpopular U.S. presidents in modern history, eagerly drank the "Yes, We Can" kool-aid in 2008. Four years later, they still like Obama enough to keep the reverse — a huge youth push behind GOP nominee Mitt Romney — from happening. But do they love him enough to propel him to victory or has the rockstar president performed his las number?

Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page writes:
He needs to rekindle the Yes-We-Can enthusiasm among young voters that propelled him to the Oval Office in 2008. He has a 17-percentage point advantage over his presumptive Republican rival Mitt Romney among voters 18 to 29, according to a nationwide poll by Harvard University's Institute of Politics. But almost a third in that age group is undecided. Obama has an advantage with under-30 voters that he needs to energize to offset his deficits with older voters, particularly white, blue-collar males.
There's certainly no magic bullet for winning over undecided young voters, but at the end of the day, I'm not sure Obama even needs one. He remains a popular, relatively uncontroversial president while Romney remains a safe, yet unexciting alternative.

In a battle of two safe choices — in the absence of a major gaffe — the incumbent usual keeps his or her job.

Alexander, it's pretty clear to me that Obama is doing a much more proactive job of reaching out to young voters. What can Romney do to catch up?