Back to School: 2020 Hopefuls Seek Votes on Campus

From 37-year-old Pete Buttigieg to 77-year-old Bernie Sanders, the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates are all seeking the fountain of youth among voters. The 2020 candidates are holding town halls, recruiting volunteers and organizing on college campuses in an effort to gain the always-elusive youth vote. Beto O'Rourke appears to be the early leader in this strategy, holding town halls at 17 different schools across six states in the past month.

Young people tend to vote Democratic, which explains why Dems are making an early play for them in 2020. Some in the party even want to expand the potential young voter pool by lowering the voting age. "It's the right strategy for the Democrats because they're promising a lot of free stuff," says Matt Langston, Republican strategist with Big Dog Strategies. "And so if you're an idealistic college kid, (the Democratic message) makes a ton of sense."

The problem for Democrats isn't garnering enthusiasm or support among young people, but actually getting them to show up on Election (or caucus) Day. "Anything can keep a younger audience from going to the polls---a late night before, just completely forgetting---so it's not really built in to their culture and psyche," says Langston. Indeed, 18-29 year-olds had the lowest turnout among all age groups in the 2016 election.

For that reason, Langston believes Republicans should be wiser about allocating time and resources chasing the youth vote. "We should be doing outreach because we get some of our best activists coming out of college, but it's a tough market for Republicans," he says. "Let Beto, let all of the Democrats spend their time on campuses, and we'll go to voters that we can appeal to and have a much better chance of switching votes long-term."


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