Candidates from both parties court youth vote in their own ways.
By Regis L. Roberts
The youth vote has been trumpeted in past elections as being a deciding factor in the outcome of the presidential race.
This year, there may be something to that.
That is why Luis Vera, national general counsel of the League of United Latin American Citizens, is gathering 50 students from various colleges in San Antonio to do volunteer work for the presidential campaign of Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., in Arizona, one of the states that will conduct primaries Feb. 5.
The Feb. 5 primary date is nicknamed Super Tuesday and Tsunami Tuesday because it is the largest concentration of primaries in a single day for this election with 24 states.
Other candidates vying for the youth vote this presidential election include Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
Vera originally said he wanted to get 30 students from the various colleges around San Antonio to make calls and hit the streets in one or more of the primary states in advance of Super Tuesday.
The group will depart from San Antonio Wednesday on a charter bus, he said.
This effort, he said, is something that he is doing on his own, and is not a LULAC operation or something financially supported by the Clinton campaign.
Clinton campaign manager Patty Solis Doyle approved the plan with the idea that Vera would send the students wherever the campaign needs them the most, whether that is sending all the students to one state or sending groups of students to different states. The student resources, it turns out, will be used in Phoenix.
He started this effort by circulating an e-mail to professors of the colleges, which, he said, met with positive response.
Vera is an enthusiastic supporter of Clinton, whom he has liked since she was the first lady from 1993 to 2001.
“She has great ideas,” he said, among them her health care plan and support for comprehensive immigration reform.
Vera is confident that Clinton can implement her proposal to cover every American with inexpensive insurance options if she is elected.
Her current health care package is similar to the one she championed in 1993, which failed following criticism from both Republicans and conservative Democrats.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Clinton’s campaign has received the most contributions of any candidate from health professionals, totaling $1.7 million, and fourth in contributions from insurance with $525,938. Former Republican Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney received the most of those currently running. Clinton received $269,236 from the pharmaceutical industry, the most of any candidate.
Vera has encouraged young women, especially, to vote, and sees the candidacy of a woman as historic.
Aside from the 1984 run of Geraldine Ferarro as Walter Mondale’s running mate, Clinton would be the closest candidate to becoming the first female president if she receives the Democratic nomination.
Attracting and mobilizing the youth vote has occupied the attention of both parties.
Judy Hall, co-chair of AlamObama, said she has students from all over San Antonio, including the University of Texas at San Antonio, University of the Incarnate Word, St. Philip’s College, St. Mary’s University and this college, advocating for Obama.
She said the group even helped send Natalie Ramirez, a University of Texas at Austin premed senior, to New Hampshire, which hosted the Jan. 8 primary carried by Clinton for the Democrats and McCain for the Republicans.
Hall said students are drawn to Obama because they feel that he listens to them and brings them into the discussion of issues that matter to them.
Students also like the fresh-face feel and message of change that has been a staple of the Obama campaign, which gives them the sense that getting involved in politics is worthwhile.
Hall said social networking sites like MySpace are a popular feature of the Obama campaign. Obama’s campaign even has its own MySpace-style site called my.BarackObama.com where visitors can create their own blogs.
Paul, who is running for president on an anti-war libertarian platform, also has gained support from young voters primarily with the Internet.
Dallas Moorhead, deputy national youth coordinator for the Paul campaign, said the idea of the Internet being used as a social networking tool has not reached some of the older generations, and sites like MySpace, Facebook and Digg, which allows users to generate news content by “digging” their favorite stories. In fact, Paul supporters have been known to flood Digg with anything related to Paul.
Though his campaign is still trying to pick up speed with other generations — something Moorhead said is vital for a presidential win — Paul’s support among young voters has been the driving force of his bid for president, winning 19 percent of voters age 18 to 24 in the Jan. 8 New Hampshire primary, coming in second in that demographic with McCain receiving 27 percent.
Much of Paul’s popularity with young voters, Moorhead said, is their disaffection with the status quo.
“Students understand that they are being sold a raw deal,” he said.
He said there are 400 chapters of Students for Ron Paul, but getting young people to participate in primaries is hard because they often do not follow rules by registering with the parties to vote in some states and then going out to vote.
McCain, for his part, has been seeking to attract independents and Republicans who are not satisfied with the way the party is heading by running as a straight-talking maverick.
His social networking site is called McCainSpace.
The Bexar County Democratic Party can be reached at 785-0962.
The Bexar County Republican Party can be reached at 824-9445.