Mitt Romney said last week, “I don’t see how a young American can vote for a Democrat.” He was referring to what, in his mind, is the Democratic Party’s excessive spending with no benefit for younger Americans.
Although Romney said this in a lighthearted way and it should not be received with much anger, it highlights the problem that the GOP, and Romney in particular, are having connecting with younger voters.
As the campaign season trudges along, there are two things we can be sure of: Statements like this will be made far more frequently as candidates try to divide and persuade voters and that young people will be courted as swing voters.
As I have mentioned in earlier columns, younger voters have sprinted to the left in recent elections, but with the perceived “failure” of President Obama by many loud voices on the right, the youth may be in play.
The amount of misinformation and distortion of the President’s record aside, the right has done an excellent job at communicating its message, even if that message is controversial, and I believe that young people are starting to take notice, in both negative and positive ways.
Young voters have taken notice of statements regarding topics ranging from birth control to military engagements. Many young voters have been turned off of the GOP recently, thanks to bills limiting access to birth control and the denial of equal rights for homosexual citizens in New Jersey and Virginia, both thanks to governors’ vetoes.
Both of these issues are very popular with young people who are turned off when politicians take a negative stand on them.
However, because of the economic climate, the GOP should be able to attract young voters thanks to promises of further economic recovery.
This is based solely on rhetoric, as many young voters will not look into respective economic plans, and much of the interest garnered depends on whether they are able to inspire young voters. This is how the GOP has gained as well as lost young voters.
Young voters will certainly be able to play a significant role in this year’s election and will be courted from both sides of the aisle.
If President Obama is able to effectively highlight how his policies have benefited younger Americans, both in the present and the future, he should be able to hold on to his ’08 majorities in the demographic.
However, if the GOP, presumably Gov. Romney, is able to focus on the job market exclusively and inspire faith in young voters that their plan will create jobs and secure a better future, then they should be able to gain some ground.
That is a big IF and will be negated if the GOP continues to get distracted on social and other side issues.
That being said, the job will be far easier for President Obama than Gov. Romney, based on the fact that he still has relatively strong support amongst younger voters and can focus on far broader issues than his GOP counterpart. However it plays out, it is sure to be interesting.
Jordan Posner can be contacted at