By: Katrina Trinko******National Review Online
In March, on the eve of the Illinois primary, over a thousand Bradley University students gathered to hear Mitt Romney.
Dressed casually, many in shorts and T-shirts, they stood outside on an unusually warm spring day in Peoria. They listened as 30-year-old Republican Representative Aaron Schock introduced Romney, and watched as Romney was presented with a bright red Bradley University hoodie. When Romney took the microphone, he passionately made the case for young adults to embrace the GOP.
“Every trillion dollars this president amasses, every year, guess who is going to pay that?” he asked. “Not me. I’m gone. I’m too old to pay it back. You’re going to pay it back.”
But there was no indication that Romney’s message resonated. Some of those watching called out “Obama 2012.” The first question was pointed: “So you’re all for like, yay, freedom, and all this stuff,” a woman said. “And yay, like pursuit of happiness. You know what would make me happy? Free birth control.” A short distance away on the campus, a group of young adults held up a blue sign spray-painted with this message: “Romney Fleecing America!”
Romney is not the first Republican candidate who has struggled to win the youth vote. No Republican candidate has won among 18-to-29-year-old voters since George H. W. Bush did in 1988. (He lost it in 1992.) And Obama’s unprecedented strength among that age group — he beat John McCain by 34 points — makes it crucial for the Romney campaign to successfully woo some of those young adults.
“The youth vote will be a key component to our winning coalitions in states and we will put the structure and resources in place to be successful (which includes surrogates),” e-mails a Romney aide.
Romney is up against fierce competition. Obama is fighting hard to keep young-adult voters, visiting three colleges in battleground states this week to make speeches centered on his support for government programs that make attending college cheaper. His campaign thought it had a winning issue by touting Obama’s support for extending the current 3.4 percent interest rate for subsidized federal loans for a year, only to be undercut when Romney announced his support for the extension days later. (Neither Obama nor Romney has offered any concrete suggestions about how the extension — estimated to cost $6 billion — should be paid for, although Romney did say it should be paid for with offsetting cuts.) The campaign is also fighting back against Obama’s general student-loan push: “What young people really want is not student loans, but a way to pay for their student loans,” said Schock yesterday in a conference call with reporters arranged by the Romney campaign.
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