Politics & Media
Aug 22, 2008, 05:27AM

McCain's Youth Vote Dissonance

The McCain campaign thinks they've got a winner with their Obama-as-celebrity message, but it's only going to alienate younger voters who actually get excited that a politician is competing with Britney for attention. Once again, McCain has shown that he can't really keep up with Obama's appeal among the up and coming political generation. If he wants to do bettter, maybe he should start with learning how to use email.

I'm worried about the McCain campaign. It's hard to see how the campaign's efforts to garner the youth vote aren't inexorably at odds with a message that, in painting Obama as a 'celeb' the likes of Paris and Britney, has Obama's youth and popularity with young voters as its central criticisms.

Where Obama sees a selling point, McCain sees a sneering point.  And when McCain asks 'Who is this young guy who wants to be president?' he's also saying, 'Who are these kids who think they get to pick the president?'

I wonder if it would really be so bad if America's politicians attracted the same amount of attention as its doyennes of the supermarket checkout aisle. What's so bad about a politician who young people actually care about? About American politics with something in common with American Idol?

The idea that Obama's youth support derives from his baby browns -- and not from his positions on college cost, the environment, and the Iraq War -- is insulting.

From his position on the war to his inability to Google, McCain's not giving youth voters a very good sense of "I get you, I get where you're coming from and I get what your issues are," said Erica Williams, Policy and Advocacy Manager with Campus Progress, the legally nonpartisan grassroots organization.

Young people want to be treated like real voters. We want real solutions on our own issues. We don't want the same old Bush-Cheney message repackaged in a pitiable attempt at Web 2.0.   And we don't, for better or for worse, want a president who doesn't use email.

  • Young people aren't so dense that we can't tell the difference between the cause for Barack's popularity and Britney Spears'. One taught constitutional law; one was on the Mickey Mouse club. And I fully agree that we shouldn't have a president that can't even use computers. Even my grandma can use a computer...

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  • I think the whole not remembering how many houses he owns is pretty exemplary of John McCain as a person and as a politician.

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  • I don't think it's relevant about how many houses McCain and his wife own. Obama's wealthy also, as are most presidents. And I'm certain there are plenty of very capable men and women of a certain age, leaders in finance, academia, unions and law, for example, who aren't tech-savvy. Bush is an inveterate e-mailer: which sort of negates that issue. On the other hand, Rebecca's comment about McCain's absurd celebrity ad is germane: McCain's staff is flailing for material to use against Obama, and concentrating on Obama's celebrity is really dumb.

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  • Christian, in the grander scheme of things of course it doesn't matter how many houses the McCains own. Anyone running for President must have some secure amount of wealth and must be especially self-involved. But if we are talking about gaffes and missteps during a campaign (which is kind of all we have to concentrate on at the moment) it is absolutely relevant. We're talking about a candidate who preaches having the experience and self-confidence to make the right decision immediately. This is illustrated by his "confronting" issues, making strong abrupt comments such as Chasing Down Osama to the Gates of Hell and Empathizing with Georgians. McCain's strength is in convincing people that it's simply a matter of having enough passion or force to resolve an issue, instead of you know actually comprehending the complexity of it. So with that being said, for someone so strong on direct response, the fact that he doesn't know how to handle an issue that was sure to be raised, and had to stall to get the best response from his staff, that was pathetic. You don't have to be quick on your feet to realize that if you are painting your opponent as an elitist, you better be prepared to defend your 100 mil net worth and seven homes.

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  • Gabriel, I don't disagree that McCain has made an enormous amount of gaffes, and that he's an "old" 71, just one of the many reasons I'm for Obama. Playing devil's advocate, however, didn't Obama's hedging on abortion, saying the issue was above his "pay grade" was pretty pathetic, too?

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  • Agreed. It wasn't the best response to maneuvering around the question. But at least Obama didn't come outright and say, "I don't know, let me check with my staff to see what I'm supposed to say." He masked it a bit. Albeit, trivializing the issue in front of an audience that considers abortion one of the most important issues at stake.

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  • I think Obama's response that deciding whether life begins at conception was "above his paygrade" was an acknowledgement that abortion is a complex moral issue that's not for him to decide; he's not running for God. Being pro-choice doesn't mean being pro-abortion. The fact is, it's going to happen anyway and it always has. Legalizing it just allows women to do instead of bleeding to death in back-alley 'clinics.'

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  • (sorry) to do it safely

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  • I agree with you, Mars, that abortion is a complex moral issue, where a person can be personally opposed or conflicted about abortion but is pro-choice (at least that's what most politicians say). And that's what Obama could've said, or something to that effect, rather than dismissing it with the "above my pay grade" line. And of course it should be legal.

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