The Obama campaign is stepping up mobilization of younger voters in 10 key swing states this month, dispatching senior aides and a handful of celebrities to college campuses for “summits” aimed at engaging the 18-to-29-year-old base.
The events will take place at Columbus State Community College in Ohio, University of Wisconsin-Madison, North Carolina Central University, University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, University of Colorado-Boulder, Miami Dade College, and University of Iowa in Iowa City, among others, a campaign official said.
Campaign manager Jim Messina, who hosted the campaign’s first youth summit at the University of Pennsylvania late last year, will join senior strategist David Axelrod, deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter and field director Jeremy Bird in fanning out to make the pitch for Obama.
A few celebrities are also expected to participate, including actress and model Gabrielle Union and actor Kal Penn, who is also a former White House staffer.
The events are aimed at registering voters, enlisting new volunteers and adding names to the campaign’s contact lists for get-out-the-vote, an official said. Messina called the youth vote, which is reliably Democratic, essential to keeping Obama competitive in November.
“Young Americans are at the foundation of this campaign and are going to make the difference in putting us over 270,” he said in a statement. “In 2008 their older brothers and sisters started this movement, and this year the more than 8 million 18-21 year olds are going to complete it.”
But polls show Obama may be challenged to ensure that they’ll turn out in force come November.
A recent Pew Research Center study of voters ages 18 to 29 found that while they are strongly supportive of the president they are disengaged from the political process compared to the same point four years ago.
Only 17 percent of millennials said they are following election news closely, while just 13 percent said they’ve given a lot of thought to the candidates, a 15 point drop since late 2007, the study found.
Republicans say comparatively high unemployment among younger voters will also make Obama’s campaign an uphill climb.
“Young people are among the hardest hit by the struggling economy with unemployment well above the national average, and many who voted for Obama in 2008 thought they were getting Hope and Change,” said Republican National Committee spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski. “It’s going to be a much harder sell now that young voters realize he’s just another typical politician.”
The campaign calls its push for the youth vote “Greater Together,” a slogan that has taken a prominent role in Obama’s message on the stump.
“We’re greater together than we are on our own,” Obama said of his vision for the country at a San Francisco fundraiser Thursday. “Everybody should get a fair shot, everybody should do their fair share, and everybody should play by the same set of rules.”
“And when we do that, then the entire country does better,” he said.