July 7, 2011 -- After four years as the leader of the establishment, President Obama may have a hard time convincing Americans, especially young voters, in the 2012 election that he still stands for hope and change.
During the 2008 election Obama-the-candidate inspired unprecedented numbers of people under the age of 30 to flock to the polls, almost doubling the youth voter turnout from the 2000 election. But three years after that historic election, America's young people are less than inspired by Obama-the-president.
Students attending a liberal-minded Campus Progress Convention in Washington, D.C., said they were frustrated by the man they helped elect in 2008, but nevertheless intended to vote for him in 2012 because he is the lesser of two evils.
"Do I think that they are going to vote for him? Yeah. But are they going to be as energized? Are they going to volunteer the long hours that they did in the '08 election? I don't think so," said Diego Gutierrez, a student from California State University.
Former President Bill Clinton, who spoke to the conference's 1,000 students Wednesday, encouraged students to "turn truth into power" by educating themselves and other voters with "the facts."
Clinton said Republican governors are doing everything they can to keep the youth from voting in the next election. "There has never been in my lifetime, since we got rid of the poll tax and all the other Jim Crow restrictions to voting, the determined effort to limit the franchise that we see today," he said.
Clinton cited, for example, a proposal in New Hampshire that would stop college students who attend school there but are from other states from voting in New Hampshire elections.
"Why is all of this going on? It's not rocket science. They are trying to make the 2012 electorate look more like the 2010 electorate than the 2008 electorate," Clinton said. "Are you fighting it? You should be fighting."
Kathleen McQueeney, a senior at the New College of Florida, said the bad policies of her Republican governor have inspired her to get involved in politics.
McQueeney said Florida Gov. Rick Scott is taking away immigration and health care rights and slashing higher education budgets, making it harder for people to attend schools and decreasing the quality of education.
While she was inspired by Obama's message in 2008, she said it will be "extraordinarily difficult" for the president to keep the youth engaged in 2012. She said that Obama "ran the best PR campaign ever" during the election, but fell flat after taking office.
The president fell flat on more than just rhetoric, said Joe Enten, who attended the conference on behalf of the Center for American Progress's Enough project to prevent genocide in Africa.
"I think there are some, not broken promises, but the realities of Washington sort of hit a lot of people hard, especially young people who have lofty goals and big dreams, and it's hard to face reality sometimes," Enten said.
But not all students were disheartened by Obama's first two and a half years.
While she was too young to vote in the 2008 election, Jeci Casperson said she left high school early every day to work on the Obama campaign. Casperson said she plans to be just as involved this time around.
"He's still young. He's still energetic. He's still everything that we want to believe in," said Casperson, now a student at the University of Wisconsin in Oshkosh.
Daniel Nicolas, a New York University student, said Obama is from a different generation than other presidential candidates, which resonates with young people because they can identify with him "in a way that is unprecedented in recent history."
Nicolas said he hopes to see Obama bring the same energy and originality that he has in campaigning to his policies in the White House, which is why he plans to vote for him in 2012.