Obama campaign shouldn’t assume it’s got the youth vote wrapped up in 2012

Last week, one of the purveyors of the conventional wisdom, Politico’s Jim Vandehei, wrote a long article about Obama’s 2012 election chances. There was one line that has been repeated over and over:

Make no mistake: Obama brings some advantages to the race, not least of which is the continued strong support of black and Hispanic voters and young people.

That’s accepted as dogma by the pundits, but, is it true? I’ve seen polling to indicate that Obama is having problems with Latino voters.

And, I have no idea what young people are thinking. But, my sense that young people aren’t operating at the levels of enthusiasm we saw in 2008 was reinforced by a Washington Post article today about Our Time, which is led by Matthew Segal:

Matthew Segal started the nonprofit Our Time earlier this year with every intention of creating a political lobby for the under-30 crowd. He planned to spend his time talking to politicians and schmoozing with policymakers.

But he soon realized the project was doomed to fail. “None of these politicians even get along with each other,” he said.

So Segal, who is 25, shifted his focus back to the people he’d set out to help: entrepreneurs and job seekers under the age of 30.

“Our Time has evolved into a organization that is about engaging with our generation, without worrying too much about the politicians in this increasingly irrelevant town,” he said.

Our Time has 350,000 members, which is not bad for a relatively new group. A couple weeks ago, the group brought some of its members to meetings at the White House and on Capitol Hill. So, people in DC know the group.

I met Matthew recently, so after reading today’s article, asked him about the prevailing CW on young people and his thoughts on the upcoming elections:

“I am going to make a bold prediction: I think you are going to see a major decline in groups like the College Democrats and College Republicans the next few years. They’re dying, if not already dead. Instead, you will see a rise in issue-oriented groups that tackle the priorities important to my generation whether social (marriage equality) or economic (jobs, jobs, jobs). The best ideas for how we advance these fights will rise to the top and capture young attention. It’s that simple.”

And in response to the question “will we show up?”, I say, “only to vote you all out of office!”

So…Maybe the conventional wisdom needs some retooling. Nothing is guaranteed.


On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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