With the help of the College Republican National Committee, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is hoping to attract young voters in this year's election.
Schriver declined to reveal where the CRNC would focus its ground game, but he repeatedly mentioned North Carolina and Missouri as states where the youth vote was key in 2008. He also cited high youth unemployment rates in Nevada and Pennsylvania as examples of where his organization — which claims 250,000 members nationwide — might have an impact. In 2010, the group targeted races in Florida, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Because the CRNC naturally relies on college student volunteers, it tends to target races in regions that include university campuses and in states that have an existing GOP infrastructure. “It is our intention that we will garner enough youth votes to put the Republican nominee over the top,” Schriver said.
But the CRNC’s ability to motivate younger voters to support Romney and other Republicans begins at a decided disadvantage, according to recent public opinion polls.
Obama holds a 35-point lead over Romney in Gallup polling among voters under 30, and it’s not hard to see why Republicans are keen to improve their appeal. The Romney campaign has tried to attract young voters the same way the former Massachusetts governor has targeted women — by pointing to the high unemployment and sluggish economic growth under Obama.
The president’s strong advantage with young voters in surveys could explain why Republicans backpedaled last week on the student loan issue just days after Obama raised it.
The GOP’s pivot suggests an understanding both of this issue’s potency and the significance of the youth demographic, even as some Republicans accused the president of trying to buy off the student vote and groused that Democrats set the student loan time bomb to explode in an election year.
Romney quickly made clear he didn’t want a fight, and the Congressional GOP leadership followed in lock step. Republicans on Capitol Hill complained that Obama was hurting younger voters by using profits from student loans for his health care overhaul and by forcing them to buy health insurance, which subsidizes older, sicker people.
“It’s a very clever strategy,” Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said. “But in the meanwhile, the president is out there on college campuses saying, ‘I’m on your side,’ and what they don’t realize is, while he’s distracting them here, he’s picking their pocket.”
Democrats and the White House continue to make explicit plays for both groups and appear content to have the student loan fight continue through the June 30 deadline.
The House GOP bill pays for the $6 billion cost of the extension by cutting health care prevention funds that are part of Obama’s health care overhaul. Democrats and the White House retaliated, however, accusing the GOP of asking Democrats to choose between mammograms and student loans.
The White House issued a stern veto threat, Senate Democrats declared the House bill dead on arrival, and the issue threatens to linger for months unless Republicans agree to add the spending to the deficit. That’s something GOP leaders decided to do on the payroll tax fight earlier this year and what some Senate Democrats suspect will happen here.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.