September 28th, 2010
11:56 AM ET

Letters to the President: #617 "Can the youth vote be rallied?”

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: President Obama held a conference call with student journalists and talked to them about the upcoming vote in November; and that’s the subject of my daily letter to the White House; after all, I was once a student journalist too!

Dear Mr. President,

I read about your appeal to college age voters, asking them to get involved in the midterm elections, and that seems like a good idea. Of course, a lot of calls to the college crowd seem like a good idea at the time. “Hey Bob, Chuck, Davey, we found a hornets’ nest behind the frat house. Want to come help drive them off with a leaf blower?”

Still, if it had not been for the youth vote, you would not be president right now. No way. And I suspect they may offer one of the best (and maybe last) defenses your party has against a thumping in November.

But, in all candor, I wouldn’t push a lot of chips into this pot. Young voters are traditionally a hard bunch to get to the polls. They have other things to do, like studying, Facebooking, beer pong, and over-extending credit cards. You can hardly expect them to set all that aside to trek to some dismal neighborhood polling place, stand in line, and flip a few levers, or punch chads, or whatever. Kidding aside, I’m not being disparaging. They are genuinely busy preparing for what, at the moment, looks like a tough entry into the job market in the not distant future.

Now, I’ll grant that you proved that they can be lured into playing along during your presidential campaign. But when you ran, you were asking them to believe in you. Not the rest of Democrats. Not the two-party system. Not Washington overall. You. You held up the promise of new ideas, change, and openness to their way of thinking.

Getting them involved now is a harder trick, because you are asking for what I call a “one-off.” You are saying, in effect, “Get out and vote for Democrats, because I am a Democrat, and unless you do, my presidency is in trouble. Or ‘more’ trouble, depending on how you look at it.” See? The connection between their vote and the result is less distinct, and less certain. Heck, they voted for you directly and it has not turned out as many of them expected, so you have to ask yourself, why would they have faith in this billiard-ball combination shot?

So I think you’ll have to lay out explicitly what you plan to do, and how you will make your fellow Dems fall in line. If you do that, perhaps enough of the college kids can be reinvigorated to your cause. But without such a maneuver, I suspect Election Day will be just another busy day on campus, with nary a thought for the consequences in DC.

So my Saints fell over the weekend. And to the Falcons! Oh well. As I write this, your Bears are meeting up with the Packers, so good luck. Call if you can. I’m around this week.


Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Not fooled

    These students should be concerned unless they all want to leave the country to get a good paying job. At least President Obama is trying to keep the jobs in the U.S.A. He is also helping them with student loans and healthcare till they are 26. What are the other guys doing?

    September 30, 2010 at 10:14 pm |
  2. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Don't under estimate student voters, remember they communicate through technology and are very effective in getting the word out. They did it before and they will do it again, it's not good to just "assume" they will be too busy or they don't need healthcare, tuition fees and more help with their charge cards and tuition debt, just stop assuming.

    September 29, 2010 at 1:50 pm |
  3. penny

    "The president needs the young vote. He will not be able to rally BLUE HAIRS. Speaking of EDUCATION NATION, why aren't we educating BLUE HAIRS to accept that their vote for the GOP is what wrecked our economy, i.e. GW BUSH. Now they are out pimping SARAH PALIN to become a president. WE need to educate Blue Hairs in critical thinking and in stop making the same old mistakes."

    September 29, 2010 at 1:11 pm |
  4. T in alabama

    Medicaid and food stamps are they fair to those who really need it? Should my family be denied Medicaid and food stamps? We are a married with one child and one on the way and only net (bring home) less than 25000 dollars a year. Our monthly bills just rent, power, water, phone and internet (for school purposes) average to just fewer than 10000 dollars a year. Medicaid is threatening to terminate us and the food stamp office has also terminated us from the 65 dollars a month we were getting. Is there any help in this country for people who are trying to help themselves! Will you bring this story to light not for a handout just to get the system to do right by the tax paying citizens?

    September 29, 2010 at 11:49 am |
  5. Annie Kate

    If the youth don't turn out to vote Democratic (or GOP) will the next question be is Obama a certainty for re-election or is he a lame duck after the November election? I just hope that the Presidential campaigns for 2012 don't start right after the first of the year.

    September 28, 2010 at 9:21 pm |
  6. Kim

    Call to action ? I asked a bunch of young 20 year olds and their answer was....We can't buy anything with Obama's hope coupons and need some real change ya know, like jobs for America. Good luck Obama and they're a tough sale.

    September 28, 2010 at 4:05 pm |

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