Youth Vote

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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IMAGE: Internet screenshots

New Jersey’s Republican governor won re-election, partly because he dramatically improved his performance among young voters on Tuesday.

Gov. Chris Christie improved his performance among voters age 18-29 this election cycle, winning 48% this time around vs. 36% during his previous campaign in 2009.


Nathan Harden is editor of The College Fix and author of the book SEX & GOD AT YALE: Porn, Political Correctness, and a Good Education Gone Bad.

Like The College Fix on Facebook. / Follow Nathan on Twitter @NathanHarden

When Republican activist Caleb Bonham wanted to spread the news about an upcoming conservative conference in Colorado, he headed to CU Boulder with a pen, poster board and video camera and convinced many students to sign a big (and fake) thank you card to President Obama for targeting conservatives through the IRS.

The video of that undertaking – which included references to the Western Conservative Summit conference he aimed to promote – quickly went viral, garnering tens of thousands of views online within a few short days.

What Bonham understood was that reaching the hearts and minds of young people isn’t about talking at them, it’s about making them chuckle – and think – all at the same time.

Enter the Internet meme, the way many twenty-somethings spread messages and debate politics nowadays. Whether memes change hearts and minds, however, is up for debate.

Internet memes can be videos, pictures, cartoons, hashtags or similar platforms. They begin small and grow through social media networks, blogs, emails and news sites, and can ultimately go viral, reaching a large and diverse audience.

Bonham emphasized their usefulness as agents of reinforcement.

“I do believe memes are effective in reaffirming the beliefs of those on either side of the isle,” Bonham said. “If one is prone to change their ideology based on some snarky comment placed on a grumpy cat photo, then that person really needs to explore their political stance further.”

Chris Telfer, executive director of the California College Republicans, said he believes the medium can be useful in bringing younger audiences into the political public square.

“Memes or cartoons have the potential to draw people into the political process that might not be attracted to traditional political media,” he said. “They provide a humorous side to a political process that can sometimes be very rigid and uninteresting to some individuals.”

The best part about a meme is – anyone can create one. All they need is photoshop and a witty or snarky comment. The hope is that viewers would look up the issue the meme aims to tackle and become more informed. It’s a sneaky, guerilla method of teaching the general public: no one wants to be left out of a joke.

According to an NPR report, the memes are working.

While both Governor Romney and President Obama spent millions on ads in their respective campaigns, the explosion of memes created by viewers during speeches or debates stole most of the campaigns’ thunder with cheaper and better messaging, the article noted.meme2

Bonham said he sees the branding power behind the political humor.

“I believe political cartoons do have the power to advance a narrative,” he said. “For instance, when late night comedians used one-liners to advance the myth that the Ivy League graduate, George W. Bush, was a buffoon, it connected.”

Thus, the saying could go: Meme or be meme’d.

The rise of political memes are increasing the possibility for a candidate’s misspeak to shape his or his campaign. Think of Big Bird, binders and bayonets. If memes have the power to brand the candidate, then those on social media sites must be listening.

If this medium works, the question now is how parties and organizations will respond.

Telfer suggests an adapt-or-die approach: “Parties need to embrace these not only to increase their potential to attract younger voters, but also because these are not going away any time soon. That being said, it’s also important that people take them for what they are – satire – and not underestimate the importance that these issues hold.”

Raffi Williams, deputy press secretary for the Republican National Committee, agrees.

“We want to get our message out to voters through every medium possible–if a lolcat can tell people that this administration’s spending has spun out of control, then we’ll have a graphic out there saying ‘icanhazlowertaxes?’” he said.

Bonham said he believes “memes must be done right, or not at all.”

The temptation for either party is to overly embrace the medium and overshoot its effectiveness, he said.

“Republicans should avoid memes in mass,” he said. “If the GOP finds a witty and compelling meme, absolutely use it. But don’t become the party of stupidity, we don’t need another one of those on the ballot.”

As Churchill once said, “a joke is a very serious thing.”

Fix contributor Haley Littleton is a student at Colorado Christian University.

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Is the GOP losing the youth? Maybe, but there are signs of hope, writes Katrina Trinko for National Review Online:

Talk different.

That’s the essential message of the College Republican National Committee’s new report on how young adults view the GOP, a document that offers a serious look at how Republicans talk about policy and why they’ve been so unsuccessful in reaching Millennial voters.

“What the GOP needs to understand is that young adults are open to voting for them, but want to know concretely how Republicans plan to solve the problems that they’re facing in their day-to-day lives,” says Kristen Soltis Anderson, a GOP pollster who conducted focus groups for the report and was its principal writer…

Read the full story at National Review Online.

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Rob Long points out an intriguing new study by the College Republicans in a post over at Ricochet.

He senses “room to win” somewhere in the study’s results.

Are the young more open to the GOP message in this age of general disenchantment with Obama and the Democrats? Or this this Rob Long’s famous optimism talking? Check the link and decide for yourself.

Nathan Harden is editor of The College Fix and author of SEX & GOD AT YALE: Porn, Political Correctness, and a Good Education Gone Bad.

Follow Nathan on Facebook /  Twitter:@NathanHarden

My liberal friends are always posting clever, politically related pictures, quotes and memes on social media.

For example, they were among the tens of thousands of people across the nation who changed their Facebook profile picture to red-colored equal signs when the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on same-sex marriage in late March.

Where were College Republicans with an official and clever little icon to post in support of traditional marriage? Nowhere to be found.

So I changed my profile picture to that of a man and a woman, which sparked quite a dialogue. How cool would it have been if that were more widespread?

This week, the College Republican National Committee released a postmortem on what went wrong with the youth vote in the November election, during which “President Barack Obama won 5 million more votes than Gov. Mitt Romney among voters under the age of 30 … enough to ensure his re-election.”

To earn more youth votes to the Republican ticket come 2016, the 95-page report cites numerous ideas and strategies, among them improved social media campaigns.

Gee, you think?!

I know that people my age use their smartphones much more than “at least once a week,” and nearly everybody uses various apps/texting “multiple times per day,” as the report stated.

It seemed odd the notion was startling to College Republican leaders.

I’m no College Republican crusader. I’m a 21-year-old English and theater major at San Diego State University who may or may not still be listed on the College Republican’s membership roster.

But I’m on their side, and while some of the report’s advice is obvious and should already have been undertaken with earnest, on the positive side – it’s a good start.

The strategies show at least College Republicans are doing something, instead of just giving up and accepting labels put on us by Democrats.

The report used focus groups, surveys, and looked at studies to gather its intel and advise students how to address such hot-topics as abortion, immigration, health care and the military.

But the larger issue is image, the rhetoric used by Republicans. Neither resonates with young people, the report said.

We cannot be content to concede labels like “caring” or “open-minded” to the Democrats just because they want us to.

“It is not that young voters are enamored of the Democratic Party,” according to the report. “They simply dislike the Republican Party more. . … Young ‘winnable’ Obama voters were asked to say what words came to mind when they heard ‘Republican Party.’ The responses were brutal: closed-minded, racist, rigid, old-fashioned.”

In my opinion, we have to work based off of our own brand. Meaning, we shouldn’t argue why we aren’t racist or homophobic, because that essentially validates Democratic posturing.

Instead, we have to explain why we are intelligent, helpful, hardworking.

Definitely making better use of Facebook and Twitter is a good idea. The report also suggested identifying younger, hip candidates. Sure, why not?

Ultimately, however, we need to articulate our positions better, and not just College Republicans – all Republicans, politicians included.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Obama’s oratory skills are largely what got him elected.

On our side, people like Dennis Prager and Michael Medved have ways of clearly explaining issues. Everything is brought down to simple, intelligent discussions. Why can’t our politicians speak more like that, instead of talking down to people?

Take the health care issue. At San Diego State, it is not required to take an economics class to earn a bachelor’s degree. I assume that is similar elsewhere. So the idea that a small business owner would have to cut employees in order to stay afloat in the face of Obamacare is not inherently understood.

We heard some of that during the Obamacare debate, but not enough. The national conversation centered on Obamacare’s unconstitutionality.

Like the report says, a bad message doesn’t earn votes or support.

“Economic growth, tackling long-term challenges, and focusing on opportunity trumped narratives around the constitution, liberty, and American values,” it stated. “While those things are not unimportant, this generation is looking for outcomes – particularly economic outcomes – that are going to make them better off.”

In the end, the report essentially offered five basic ideas, stating: focus on the economic issues that affect young people  today: education, the cost of health care, unemployment; capture the brand attributes of intelligence, hard work, and responsibility; don’t concede “caring” and “open-minded” to the left; fix the debt and cut spending, but recognize that messages about “big government” are the least effective  way to win this battle of ideas with young voters; and go where young voters are and give them something to share.

It’s a good start.

Fix contributor Emily Yavitch is a student at San Diego State University.

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