Jobs, Student Loan Help Focus of Pitches to Young Voters

bjbjLULU &OEw” GWEN IFILL: As they move to
boost enthusiasm for the general election, President Obama and likely Republican nominee
Mitt Romney have each stepped up their efforts to woo young voters. (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
GWEN IFILL: The president’s visit today to the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill,
was billed as an official White House policy speech. But, as the president heads to a string
of campuses this week, he is also clearly courting the young voters who rallied for
him four years ago. Today’s message, tailored for his audience, was a pitch to hold down
the cost of student loans. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: No matter what it is, no matter what
field you’re in, you’re going to have to engage in life-long learning. That’s the nature of
the economy today, and we’ve got to make sure that’s affordable. That’s good for the country;
it’s good for you. At this make-or-break moment for the middle class, we’ve got to make sure
that you’re not saddled with debt before you even get started. (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
GWEN IFILL: Unless Congress acts by the 1st of July, tuition loan rates could double for
more than seven million students. MAN: The next president of the United States. GWEN
IFILL: Republican Mitt Romney, breaking with some in his party, has also urged Congress
to extend the lower rates. But, campaigning in Pennsylvania Monday, he said younger voters
have broader concerns that extend beyond the cost of college. MITT ROMNEY (R): I think
young voters in this country have to vote for me if they’re really thinking of what’s
in the best interest of the country and what’s in their personal best interest, because the
president’s policies have led to extraordinary statistics. And when you look at 50 percent
of the kids coming out of college today can’t find a job or can’t find a job which is consistent
with their skills, how in the world can you be supporting a president that’s led to that
kind of an economy? GWEN IFILL: Romney campaign officials say young people have been hurt
under the Obama administration, with an unemployment rate of 16.4 percent, double the rate for
all Americans. Polls show the president enjoys a wide margin of support among young voters.
In 2008, Mr. Obama carried 18-to-29-year-olds by almost 2-1, and a recent NBC News/Wall
Street Journal poll gave him a 60 percent to 34 percent advantage over Romney among
voters 18-to-34. But some of that enthusiasm has waned. Just 45 percent say they have a
high interest in the fall election, down from 63 percent four years ago. A separate Harvard
University study underscored how youthful support could shift by November. Fully 30
percent say they are undecided. We have two views on how the campaigns reach out to young
voters this year and how strategy has changed since 2008. Patrick Gaspard is the executive
director of the Democratic National Committee. And Alex Schriver is chairman of the College
Republican National Committee. Welcome to you both. So you just saw this long gap, Alex
Schriver. How do you close this gap when we’re saying that President Obama leads Mr. Romney
61 percent to 33 percent? ALEX SCHRIVER, chairman, College Republican National Committee: Right.
Well, I think’s a misconception out there that the Democrats have a lock on the young
voters. That’s not true. Republicans have won the youth vote three times in the modern
era. We ve tied it twice more. Now, obviously, 2008 was an anomaly. Obama won the youth vote
66-32, 2-1. But we ve already seen that number come back in the midterm elections in 2010.
There are eight million new voters that have come of age since 2008. And these are young
people who saw their older brothers and sisters get caught up in hope and change in 2008 and
are sitting here three-and-a-half years later not better off. And so as this election continues
and as our candidates up and down the ballot can talk about jobs and the economy, as you
heard there, 16 percent unemployment among young people in this country, half of my generation
didn’t get up and go to a job this morning. Those are real numbers that affect young people.
And so when they get to that ballot box in November, that’s what they re going to be
voting on. And we’re confident that they will come to our side. GWEN IFILL: Does that — Patrick
Gaspard, does explain what seems to be fading enthusiasm, at least compared to 2008? I think
I saw a number today that only 5 percent of young voters showed up on Super Tuesday, which
was the big election day of the year so far. PATRICK GASPARD, Democratic National Committee:
Well, of course, Super Tuesday was dominated by the Republican Party and there’s been a
tremendous lack of enthusiasm for that entire field, including for the front-runner in the
party, Mitt Romney. I would remind your viewers that, in 2008, we were in the midst of a historic
primary contest between Sen. Obama and then Senator Clinton, and of course there was an
intense reaction amongst young people to the eight years of George W. Bush. Clearly, we’re
not engaged in such a primary on the Democratic side. But we are seeing a tremendous amount
of enthusiasm across the country in campuses every time we go out and have conversations
about the things that this president has done to help move young people up the economic
ladder. For instance, when we go out, young people know that this president doubled the
size of Pell Grants and the number of Pell Grant recipients in this country. They are
rightly proud that he made good on his commitment to pull us out of the combat mission in Iraq,
which was a compelling issue for young people at the time. And they are also thrilled that
this president has made it possible for 2.6 million young people to continue to be on
the health insurance of their parents, which of course is tremendously important in these
tough economic times. GWEN IFILL: What about those unemployment numbers, twice as many
young people. . . PATRICK GASPARD: Well, Gov. Romney and now Alex cited a report that has
some dubious statistics. I would remind everybody that for. . . GWEN IFILL: Bureau of Labor
Statistics report. PATRICK GASPARD: Well, actually, the Bureau of Labor Statistics made
it abundantly clear that for college graduates who are 24 years old and have been out of
college for a year, unemployment actually dropped 3 percentage points for young folks.
So I think it’s clear that we have quite a ways to go yet in this country, and Americans
are still struggling through what was the greatest recession since the Great Depression.
But we all should remember where we have come from and where we’re headed. GWEN IFILL: Alex
Schriver, what about the issue that it seems that Gov. Romney and President Obama agree
on, this issue of tuition costs? Now, we know by all means all these young people we’re
talking about aren’t in college. But does that resonate? ALEX SCHRIVER: Absolutely.
There’s one trillion dollars of student loan debt in this country. That’s more than credit
card and auto loan debt combined. And how both parties face that is going to be an incredibly
important issue this fall. The average student loan, that’s $22,000, is at an all-time high.
And you saw Gov. Romney came out yesterday in support of a temporary extension on the
interest rate subsidy. GWEN IFILL: How do you pay for it? ALEX SCHRIVER: Well, that’s
exactly why — that’s exactly why you have seen some dissension among the Republicans.
And the media wants to paint a difference among Gov. Romney’s position and some House
congressional leaders. And I don’t think there is a difference. And we heard from Congressman
Schock this morning it’s about having a responsible plan to pay for this. This is a $6 billion
subsidy. And one side of the aisle says we can do this if our job rate is so low that
we need to find a way to help young people for a temporary amount of time. And the other
side says let’s just continue this on and on. But this is a bill in 2007 that then Sen.
Obama missed two key votes on. This only comes up in an election year, temporary solution
to get him reelected, and that’s what we have seen over and over. PATRICK GASPARD: Well,
Gwen, I think that Alex is absolutely right that this is a moment of crisis and therefore
an opportunity for real leadership from both parties. And it’s great to hear that Gov.
Romney supports this extension. However, let’s also be clear that he’s embraced the Ryan
budget, which slashes Pell Grants and locks in the 6 percent interest rate for college
loans. So I think there’s a bit of contradiction in Gov. Romney’s current position. And to
your point, Alex, of course, Sen. Obama, Sen. Clinton, Sen. Biden and Sen. Dodd all missed
that vote in 2007 because they were engaged in that campaign. But young people know that
this is a president who’s increased student aid and he’s doing all that he can right now
to make certain that they have opportunities going forward. GWEN IFILL: Right now, you
have a lot of young voters who are saying I don’t know if I’m going to vote at all.
I’m not that moved by this. What do you do between now and the fall to make those numbers
break, for the Republicans? ALEX SCHRIVER: Well, it’s about coming together behind a
candidate at the top of the ticket. We’re just getting through our primary process.
Obviously, it looks like Gov. Romney is going to be our candidate. And so, as he gets out
on campuses more, and I have been encouraged as the leader of the nation’s oldest and largest
youth political organization, with 250,000 members on 1,800 campuses, to see the efforts
of Gov. Romney and other candidates running for Senate and House to reach out to young
voters. One of the things that we saw in 2008 was how important the youth vote was. They
made up 17 percent of the electorate in 2008. That’s up from 14 percent in 2004. So this
is obviously a demographic that’s going to receive attention from both sides. And as
long as, you know, we continue to spread our message of jobs and the economy, which, by
the way, is the number-one issue to 75 percent of young people, then we’re confident that
there will be enthusiasm, they will see the effects of the last three-and-a-half years
of this administration that it’s had on them personally and come out enthusiastically for
Republican candidates and for Gov. Romney. GWEN IFILL: So that the enthusiasm will cut
the other way this time. You pointed out it was a once in a lifetime for a lot of people,
a historic event four years ago. How do you get people to say, well, whatever, we tried
that, now it feels the same — in fact, I feel worse. I feel like I’m still living in
mom’s basement. PATRICK GASPARD: Well, Gwen, as you noted at the top of this report, there
continues to be quite a gap between support for President Obama and support for Gov. Romney
amongst 18-to-29-year-olds. And that’s because young people working with this president have
accomplished a great deal, from the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, to the end of the
combat mission in Iraq, to passing critical health care, and the passage of student loan
reform. So I believe that young people who have worked with us every step of the way
to get us on the path to meaningful, lasting reform and change are going to show up in
November to reaffirm their own hard work, their accomplishments and. . . GWEN IFILL:
It’s what you would all like to see. But here’s an example, a real world example. Ron Paul
brought a lot of young people out this year. They all came to his rallies. They’re still
coming to his rallies, and yet he hasn’t won a single primary. Are we talking about voters
who are excited, but not actually voting? ALEX SCHRIVER: Look, Gov. Romney was able
to win the youth vote in Florida and Nevada. And he’s done so since. And those were still
competitive primaries with a crowded field. So to say that Gov. Romney can’t connect with
the youth is just inaccurate. Obviously, Congressman Paul has run a successful campaign in getting
new supporters out. And we feel that those supporters that are coming out, listening
to the conservative message, listening to Republican candidates will eventually come
to us as well and Gov. Romney as — and Gov. Romney, too. PATRICK GASPARD: Gwen, in 2008,
we had a tremendous amount of youth activity, and as I said, a lot of that was in reaction
to eight years of George W. Bush. But I think that, right now, young people are going to
make their decisions based on substantive issues. They care about who’s fighting for
them on education, health care and on, of course, job creation. And I think at the end
of the day as they assess what this president has done and the plans that he’s laid forth
for growing this economy and instilling a measure of fairness into our economy, and
they contrast that to Governor Romney’s record in Massachusetts and his adherence to the
Tea Party code and the Ryan budget, that they will end up making — casting a vote for President
Obama. GWEN IFILL: We will come back later in the year and test and see how that’s going
for either of you. Patrick Gaspard of the Democratic National Committee, and Alex Schriver
of College National Republicans, thank you both very much. ALEX SCHRIVER: Thank you.
PATRICK GASPARD: Thank you so much, Gwen. urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags
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place GWEN IFILL: As they move to boost enthusiasm for the general election, President Obama
and likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney have each stepped up their efforts to woo
young voters Normal Microsoft Office Word GWEN IFILL: As they move to boost enthusiasm
for the general election, President Obama and likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney
have each stepped up their efforts to woo young voters Title XEw” Microsoft Office Word
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