Enthusiasm waning among youthful supporters of Obama

By Dave Andrusko

An anecdote-driven story in today’s Washington Post gave some fascinating support to a column written by Karl Rove, President George W. Bush’s deputy chief of staff, that appears in the Wall Street Journal.

“Generation Obama grows up and moves on,” the Post headline tells readers. There are many interesting asides and insights into what has taken place with the group that was called “Generation Obama” in 2008. (BTW: It is very noteworthy that, as Eli Saslow writes, “Generation Obama has become Generation 44, now an official group run by the Obama campaign.”)

Things have changed immensely for the “original two-dozen members of a grass-roots group in New York City.” Saslow explains

“Back in 2008, they had traveled together to Denver in a wave of euphoria to watch Barack Obama accept the Democratic nomination. Their group had spread across the country by then and grown into the thousands, coming to represent the youthful energy that helped propel Obama into office.

“Now, in Charlotte, their group was representative of Obama’s youth support again: smaller, more realistic, more established and more fractious.

“Some of the original members had become political insiders. Others had come to resent politics altogether.

“The story of Generation Obama is the story of a key coalition in the 2012 presidential campaign. Many young voters were drawn into politics by this president, but now he is having trouble retaining their same level of support. It is a problem the Obama campaign has come to refer to as the ‘enthusiasm gap.’ His staff is not so much worried about young voters favoring Mitt Romney, it is worried that the Obama volunteers of 2008 will turn into half-hearted voters and that the voters of 2008 will not bother to vote at all in 2012.”

Rove fleshes that skeletal portrait with a number of details that suggest that Team Obama is right to be deeply worried about what may happen this November with young people.  For example, referring to voters 18 to 29 (the “Millenials”) Rove points out that

They represented 18% of the electorate in 2008 and gave Obama a margin of roughly eight million votes over Sen. McCain.

While 78% of these young voters told Gallup in October 2008 they would definitely vote, “Now it’s 58%.”

Rove offers evidence that “fewer younger people are registered.”

“Mr. Obama’s lead over Mr. Romney in the latest JZ Analytics poll among voters ages 18-29 is 49% to 41%. If young voters turn out this fall in the same numbers as in 2008 and give Mr. Obama this eight-point margin, it will take 2.8 million votes from Mr. Obama’s total and add more than 3.3 million to Mr. Romney’s tally.”

Finally, as Saslow explains, “Now, according to Post-ABC polling, about as many 18- to 29-year-olds hold ‘strongly negative’ as ‘strongly positive’ views of [Obama’s] work in office.”

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