Skip to comments.In Battle for Young Voters, Romney Should Play it Uncool
Posted on 04/13/2012 3:52:02 AM PDT by Kaslin
President Obama's re-election largely hinges on his ability to play young voters for suckers -- again -- and whether Mitt Romney will let him.
In 2008, Obama won the youth vote by better than a 2-1 margin, 66 percent to 32 percent. Even more impressive, he actually expanded the share of young voters going to the polls by some 3 million. Those extra voters helped tip several swing states.
Obama owed his success to being a charming political unknown onto whom young people could project their hopes. His rhetoric was a hipsterized version of Successories for college kids: "Yes, we can" and "We are the ones we've been waiting for!"
His primary opponents were mostly a herd of political dinosaurs who'd been around since before the invention of not just the Internet, but cable TV. Joe Biden, an early primary opponent, had first run for president two years before your typical first-year college student had been born. Even Obama's main rival, Hillary Clinton, had been a fixture of TV news ever since college kids were still in preschool.
Obama was different. He had that cool name. He was black. He'd never done much that was important, save give some fun speeches, but that was OK; neither had most college students, and that didn't keep them from being special either. More important, they believed his promises, they liked his style, they bought his easy answers and flattering pandering.
Four years later, Obama's in trouble, which is why he's visiting college campuses more often than a Red Bull delivery truck. He's talking louder and getting more shrill, because his campaign knows how desperately it needs to replicate -- or even come close to replicating -- his success with the youth vote in 2008. Polls and countless news stories indicate that young voters are either bored, unimpressed or disappointed with Obama, and with the state of the country.
All of the exciting reasons to vote for Obama are gone. Even his accomplishments don't excite people, never mind his failures. His "Yes, we can" rhetoric is gone because it sounds stupid after four years of "No, we didn't." Now we get cynicism and fear-mongering. His attacks on the Republicans are tawdry and desperate. He even admits the "Buffett Rule" is a gimmick. Other issues like green energy are passé now, even though gas prices continue to soar. (A troubling sign for Obama: Only a third of hybrid car owners are interested in ever getting another after they get rid of the one they have.)
Obama's approval rating among 18- to 29-year-olds hovers around 50 percent (after almost a year of bad press for the GOP). But a late 2011 Harvard survey found that only 12 percent of young people felt the country was moving in the right direction. An outfit called Generation Opportunity, which is trying to organize young voters on economic issues, finds that 77 percent of young people have had to put their lives on hold because of the economy.
In short, conditions are not ripe for an Obama youth tsunami.
The trick for Romney isn't to pander to young voters. He'll never beat Obama and the Democrats at that game. But Romney can turn things to his advantage. He needs to contrast himself with Obama in ways that highlight Obama's desperate need to seem cool to compensate for his failures. Nothing turns off young people more than pretending to be "down with the youth" as it were.
Indeed, Romney should take some lessons from Ron Paul on this score. There is quite literally nothing hip or cool about Paul, but of all the politicians this cycle, he probably generates the most excitement among young voters. Now, part of Paul's appeal Romney cannot copy. Paul's esoteric and conspiratorial theorizing about the Federal Reserve, for instance, won't help Romney in the general election.
But what Romney can learn from the 76-year-old Paul is the appeal of authentic nerd chic. It's cool to be really into your issues and interests. And one of the things that distinguishes the millennial generation is an understanding that nerds -- Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs et al. -- get things done, and get rich as a result.
After four years of dashed expectations, a studiously uncool Romney might offer a welcome contrast to Obama's audacity of hype.
Wow! Great article. I’ve always liked Jonah Goldberg. Whenever he’s on Greta, the kid is sharp as a tack but seems to be very humble and un-cool himself. What do you call a nerd in his 30s? Answer: Boss
To WHOM will Bishop Etch-a-SKETCH next pander?
Romney sucks, He is is total socialist leftist loser and has already lost the election.
When the GOP finally confirms that they are officially a dead party by nominating romney, I will not shed a tear. They will completely deserve to be condemned by history as the treasonous scum that they will be remembered as. Even worse for them, since they succumbed to the socialists in betraying the American people, their historical obituary will be written by democrats. Absolutely fitting, IMHO.
“.Anyway this senate seat has been liberal/socialist since Snowes been there...Indeed, Romney should take some lessons from Ron Paul on this score.”
Good observation. Most young people didn’t think that their lives would be on hold thanks to a debt-saddled economy.
I’ve been reading the GOP’s obit for years now. VERY popular hyperbolic talking point.
The last thing that killed a major party was the fight over slavery, a huge dominant issue the likes of which we haven’t seen since. The Whigs were divided on it and probably wished in would go away so they could go back to talking about tariffs.
The Bull Moose spilt in 1912, temporary. Even the great depression and being reduced to 1/4 of Congress wasn’t enough to get rid of the Republican party. Less than a decade after Watergate (and 4 years after nominating RINO clown Gerald Ford who barley lost) we had a conservative President and first GOP Senate in decades. 2 years after a RINO President left office and a mentally unstable RINO Senator (whom I’m not sure isn’t worse than Romney) was nominated to succeed him the GOP made huge gains in the midterm election.
Romney is not a conservative. Nor is he a supernatural evil capable of epic wanton destruction of a 150+ year old political party. He’s just a jerk who’s wanted to be President since his daddy peed his pants in 1968.
Great Depression and Watergate > Mitt Romney
It takes major upheaval to “destroy” a major political party. Republican and democrat are going to be the 2 major parties in the next election, and the one after that, and the one after that.
Mark it down. In August or September, Obama is going to float some massive Student Loan Forgiveness proposal which will swing large numbers of young cretins to his side.
I am so stealing that.
You’re right and the plan has been in the works since Obama took office.
I would urge everyone to read Charles Murray’s new book on classes in white America, “Coming Apart.” The upshot is that the old blue-collar, middle class is rapidly, rapidly losing all clout and that to have any hope of recapturing America we will have to capture the “creative class.” The GOP is as well poised to do this on economic issues (better, actually) than the Dems; but must make a case that can be made on why social stability, chastity, traditional marriage, religiousity, “good behavior,” are COOL. And, yes, at one time they were very cool, and very Republican.
and that's his sole motivation!