Young voters poised to flex voting muscle

The trio's efforts to cultivate young students, activists and professionals are not limited to policy. "Generation Obama" chapters sponsor $25 and $50 fundraising lunches, concerts and other events, often via Facebook. Clinton's "Hillblazers" website urges "young leaders" to volunteer, donate and tell friends why they like "Hillary."

Chelsea Clinton, 28, has been campaigning for her mother on campuses all over. Meghan McCain, 23, mixes fashion, music and politics on a campaign blog. One recent photo showed her father, 71, wearing a big grin. The caption: "He had so much fun at the MTV Forum."

Obama's daughters are only 6 and 9, but he is his own youth envoy. He's won most under-30 voters in contests so far — about 60% vs. 40% for Clinton, according to surveys of people after they voted.

On Facebook, Obama has nearly 800,000 supporters compared with about 150,000 for Clinton and 119,000 for McCain. Last week, Obama drew more than 12,000 to a rally here, five days after Clinton spoke to 5,000 in the same hall.

Ben Smith, a writer for Politico, has been tracking the generation gap. Last month, he cited as emblematic an exchange between Obama and an employee at a Foot Locker store in Scranton. "What are the new kicks everyone's looking at?" Obama asked an employee. "The Jordans," he was told. "The Jordans? That's old-school," he replied. "What about the LeBrons?"

Clinton received a rare nod from a college newspaper in that state (the University of Pennsylvania's Daily Pennsylvanian). She also held half the white youth vote against Obama, one reason for her 9-percentage-point victory last month.

'Everything we do … matters'

A day after Obama lost Pennsylvania, Tim Granholm, president of IU Students for Obama, jokingly ordered about 30 volunteers to stop "mourning" and sign up to publicize early voting. "Everything we do from this point really matters. It's going to be close here," Granholm, 22, told them a few days before he graduated Saturday.

On the first day of on-campus voting, Obama volunteers set up an information table and handed out reminders. A half-block away, Clinton volunteers had their own table and were handing out fliers advertising her upcoming visit.

"The whole family's been here. We had Chelsea, we had Bill, and now we have her. They definitely haven't given up on the students," said AnnElyse Gibbons, 20, a legal affairs major and president of IU Students for Hillary Clinton.

Hall and Gillard are part of a group that Green says has been pulled in this year by hot competition and candidates with appeal to independents and across party lines: "young people who tend to have weaker party attachments."

Hall, a freshman from Noblesville, Ind., said he likes Clinton because "she offers a long-term plan" for the economy. He'd consider McCain, he says, if McCain chooses a moderate running mate.

Gillard of Schererville, Ind., is a freshman who supports Obama. "He mentions fiscal integrity more than she does. That's one of my main concerns as an accounting major. … His health care plan is a little more realistic, and that's important, too," Gillard said.

"I'll still vote in the fall regardless of who gets the nomination," he said. His current order of preference: Obama, McCain, Clinton.

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