President Barack Obama’s visit to Denver this week was marked by a speech on the Auraria campus, where he told the crowd of mostly young college students that he needed their help.
He was speaking specifically about needing help to pressure Congress into passing his jobs bill, but he really does need their help in more ways than one.
While it was more than the youth vote that won the 2008 election for Obama, the energy and volunteerism of young voters was a key ingredient of his winning strategy. Without it, the rock concert atmosphere of his speeches in 2008 would not have had the same effect.
While President Obama likely won’t have the rock concert reception at his campaign stops in 2012, he still needs the effort of the college aged vote to be his army of volunteers on the ground. The question is, will they be there for him in 2012?
Obama has made some clear progress on issues that are of high importance to this generation of voters. Finally getting troops out of Iraq, successfully employing the Obama doctrine in Libya, and proposing the idea that the wealthy should pay more taxes are all issues that resonate with college voters.
President Obama’s approval numbers are also highest among young voters, who give him a job approval rating of over 55%.
However, there’s a very big difference between approving of one’s job performance, and actively working to get him re-hired.
President Obama does not take the college vote for granted. He used his Denver appearance to announce his new plan to help college students convert private loans into federal loans. But, while the move will garner some support, it’s not the kind of a policy maneuver that is going to inspire students to give up summer jobs to volunteer for the campaign.
What Obama will need to do is find that extra spark that motivates this same crowd to go from approving to volunteering. And, not just volunteering, but active, energetic volunteering.
That kind of effort will take special inspiration. The problem with that isn’t that Obama can’t inspire. The problem is that Obama inspired supporters in 2008 by promising to be a different kind of President. Obama ran on the idea that he would be the President to rise above the politics, to be a post-partisan President.
President Obama cannot run on that platform anymore. With his own base still angry at him over a variety of issues and with the Democratically held U.S. Senate unable to pass his Jobs bill, he has proven that he is still very much still in the partisan age of politics.
I am unsure exactly how Obama can re-inspire one of his key demographics. If I had the answer, I would be getting paid an obscene amount of money right now. Alas, I am still a humble public television producer.
The one thing I do know is that if President Obama doesn’t figure out how to get this group inspired again very soon, he’s going to need find a whole new kind of army in 2012.
About The Blogger
– Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.