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Young Delegates: Obama Should Tout Pro-Youth Efforts

Young Delegates: Obama Should Tout Pro-Youth Efforts

By Caitlin Huey-Burns - September 3, 2012


CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- North Carolina's two youngest Democratic delegates to the party's national convention here, who began their first year of college less than two weeks ago, say young voters generally support Barack Obama but that the re-election campaign would benefit from more strongly conveying what the administration has done for their age group.

“I like how Obama has fought for trying to keep college affordable this year, how he has stepped up not only for our futures but for our social values, like when he came out in support of LBGT equality,” says Vibhav Kollu. His reference to college affordability involves legislation the president signed in June extending low interest rates for student loans.

Kollu, a Concord resident who turned 18 in June, attends the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

“I think people are just unclear about President Obama’s record. They’re . . . getting wrong information and misguided information,” continued Kollu, whose hometown is about a half hour from Charlotte. “They have the information available and the Obama campaign needs to do a better job at conveying that, though they are doing a pretty good job.”

Nick Carpenter, a delegate from Shelby who recently turned 19 and attends Gardner-Webb University, says it will take “a little extra effort this year to get [youth] motivated to vote.” Both Carpenter and Kollu say they are excited about casting ballots in their first presidential election, but acknowledge some of their peers might not be as motivated.

Obama won voters 18-24 years old by more than 30 points in 2008. North Carolina is home to more than 17 colleges and universities -- prime youth mobilization hotbeds. A July poll of voters 29 and younger by Tufts University’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement found Obama leading Mitt Romney, 55 percent to 42 percent.

Of the 5,556 delegates to the convention, 644 are youth voters, according to Democratic National Committee Secretary Alice Germond. And among that group of young delegates, 285 are enrolled students. The youngest, from Iowa, was born in 1994 and will be 18 by Election Day. “We will learn from them because they are our future,” Germond said at a press conference Monday.

“In my opinion, they are just tired and not happy with what’s going on and they don’t see how their one little vote is important enough to spend the 10, 15 or 20 minutes standing in line to vote,” Carpenter says of his peers. (He describes his college, in Boiling Springs, as a conservative school.) “They are just frustrated because our politicians can’t seem to work together and get anything accomplished.”

Kollu says he senses more energy for Obama on his campus. “Having the convention in Charlotte has gotten a lot of youth active and engaged in the conversation,” adds Kollu, who was born in India and immigrated with his family to the United States. His parents recently obtained citizenship and are voting Democratic, he says.

Carpenter says his family is politically split. “I got involved in 2008 on [Obama’s] first campaign, and I couldn’t even vote,” he notes. “But he was one of those energized kinds of people and I was just frustrated and tired of everything going on, so I wanted to get involved and try to help.”

Asked if President Obama is similar to candidate Obama of four years ago, Carpenter replies: “To me he is still a good candidate. I think he will be able to pull it out [in North Carolina.] I think he will, but I think it will be closer than it was in 2008.”

Two new polls show a very tight race in the Tar Heel State; the RCP Average finds Mitt Romney ahead by 1.2 percentage points. 

Alexis Simendinger contributed to this report.

Caitlin Huey-Burns is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at chueyburns@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @CHueyBurnsRCP.

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