New Republican ‘Campus Captain’ Effort Targets Youth Vote

by Andrew Desiderio - George Washington University on July 30, 2014

RNC promises tech-savvy, peer-to-peer outreach at universities to gain millennials’ support

President Barack Obama decisively won the youth vote in 2008 and 2012, but the Republican National Committee has launched a campaign that aims to reverse that trend.

With the 2014 midterm elections looming, the committee’s new “Campus Captain” program strives to help student representatives at universities across the nation harness their peers to the Republican ticket come November.

While in the past young Republicans have largely helped with more traditional off-campus duties, committee leaders want Campus Captains to aggressively take their message to the quad in person and through social media.

“This is a new approach for the RNC when it comes to college campuses, and one we have great faith will help Republicans win more younger voters,” deputy press secretary of the RNC, Raffi Williams, said in an interview with The College Fix.

“Conservative beliefs are based in fact, so we are making sure that our volunteers … are given the information they need to engage in a political discussion on campus or in the classroom,” he said.

The program enlists volunteers to “identify, message, and strategically turnout young voters on college campuses across the country using new technology,” Williams said, adding that the goal is to “empower” young people, “arm them with facts,” and encourage them to “not be afraid to engage in a debate on campus.”

Last year, the RNC hired Elliott Echols to be their director of youth outreach with the goal of making youth voter contacts and to encourage millennials to turn out at the polls.

Echols, in an interview with The College Fix, said the way to get young people to identify as Republicans is to have “their peers sharing their message.”

That’s where the Campus Captains come in. Their job is to “spread information about elections, candidates and issues that matter to college students,” according to the RNC.

The RNC will feed the captains voter information and give them the “ability to consistently predict where we are and what individuals we need to touch and with what message,” Echols said.

A recent photo the RNC posted on Twitter showed the captains hunkered down before their computer screens, learning facts and talking points to take back to their schools come this Fall. The issues Echols said he believes will win young people are their grim career prospects under Obama. RNCTweet

“Obama has failed them,” Echols said. “Jobs and the economy are what will bring people to the polls in November.”

He cited the overwhelming number of college graduates who lately have been returning home to live with their parents because they cannot find employment.

Echols said one of the main cruxes of the Republican argument they are teaching the captains is that “allowing more competition into the marketplace” is the best way for a free market economy to function.

Harnessing social media to get that and other messages out is a big part of the new program.

He said their social media team is integral in giving important tools to Campus Captains across the country. One of those tools is helping the captains make voter contacts.

Williams added that the RNC has a “strategic partnership” and a “supportive relationship” with the College Republican National Committee.

“Currently we have more than 220 campus captains signed up and we expect that number to continue to increase,” he said. “Some CR presidents are campus captains, but that is not a requirement.”

“We are looking for conservatives on campuses who are passionate about getting conservatives elected to office,” he added. “College Republicans do great work on campuses, but the goal of Campus Captains is to utilize all the new digital tools the RNC has to turn out more conservative youths.”

According to a CIRCLE study, Mitt Romney would have won the 2012 presidential election had he secured the youth vote in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Florida.

Acknowledging this shortfall, Williams said the GOP “has a great opportunity to leverage the young vote to win elections in 2014, 2016, and beyond.”

“We will win national and at a state level [if we engage more with youth voters],” he said.

The Campus Captains come as a similar effort within the Hillary Clinton camp also emerges at universities. It’s called the “snowflake” model and aims to create Clinton armies on college campuses.

College Fix contributor Andrew Desiderio is a student at The George Washington University.

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