The youth vote in the current presidential campaign is a topic of wide discussion. The big question is: Will President Obama be able to win among young people by the 2-to-1 margin he pulled off in 2008? Recent polling shows Mr. Obama has lost much youth enthusiasm and is polling barely above 50 percent with this demographic. In light of this trend, is it possible that Mitt Romney has a chance of winning the youth vote?
Historically, Republicans have lost within this voting group. Ever since the 26th Amendment was ratified in 1971, changing the voting age from 21 to 18, the GOP has won the youth vote only twice — in 1984 and 1988. The GOP has come close to winning the youth vote previously. George W. Bush nearly won with 46 percent in 2000 and 45 percent in 2004.
In 2008, John McCain lost the youth vote 66 percent to 31 percent. There are two prime reasons why he lost and lost this badly. First, he was representing the unpopular incumbent party and facing a tough economy and a war-weary nation. Second, he lacked any substantial youth outreach effort compared to the monumental exertion of the Obama campaign, not only policywise, but using pop culture, the cult of personality and new media to reach out.
So what has changed in four years? Two quotes from the Republican National Convention two weeks ago summarize this change: