Virtual Voices

Candidates seek youth vote

Campaign 2008

Presidential candidates are courting a group that seems to have bounced from political apathy: youth. Young people didn't just become fans of Obama on Facebook or friend Ron Paul on My Space. They voted, too.

In Iowa, the number of voters under age 30 tripled compared with 2004. Young voters comprised 22% of the total Democratic vote and gave victor Obama 57% of their votes. Young GOP voters were slightly less dedicated, but they still made up 11% of the GOP vote. Mike Huckabee pulled 40% of their vote, twice what closest competitor Ron Paul won.

Hillary Clinton's supporters were aged in comparison (over a third over age 65), so she scrambled to change her tactics in New Hampshire. Bill Clinton told MTV the Clinton campaign was correcting its mistake of not seeking youth. Hillary Clinton employed daughter Chelsea as a campaign companion, emphasizing change, dreams, and "delivering the kind of possibilities that will give each of you the chance to live out your own hopes." Obama still got 61% of the voters between the ages of 18 and 24, but didn't do as well with voters under 40. Clinton eked out a victory, telling MTV News, ""My support among young people will grow."

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John McCain's straight talk draws young people, too, the New York Times says. Rachel Sklar of the Huffington Post said John McCain may be getting older, but his supporters have stayed the same age. Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, and John Edwards don't fare as well with youth.

Ned Ryun, chairman of Madison Youth Project, isn't surprised that young voters are making a difference this year. Madison Youth Project relies on young campaigners to elect conservative, pro-family, pro-life candidates like Sen. Tom Coburn, Rep. Mike Pence, and Sen. Jim Demint. Ryun told WoW, "Young people are very passionate, very motivated. When they get moving in the right direction it's hard to stop them."

Pundits predict that youth enthusiasm is ephemeral. Ryun said getting involved will just increase their motivations: "They walk away and they realize, … not only did I just become involved in the political arena, I made a difference. It motivates, inspires and makes them want to do even more. You give them a taste of success and it builds."

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