By Jack Gillum ,AP
WASHINGTON — U.S. President Barack Obama counted on the support of younger voters four years ago. Now, a new Republican-leaning “super” political committee wants to bring them to the Republican Party’s side.
Crossroads Generation, a new super PAC — an independent committee that is allowed to raise money in unlimited amounts in support of candidates — formed with the help of a handful of established Republican groups, is tapping into the economic frustrations of under-30 voters facing dim job prospects, crippling student loans or the prospect of having to move back home with their parents.
Starting Monday, the PAC is launching a US$50,000 social media ad campaign targeting younger voters in eight swing states, including Ohio and Virginia. Their ultimate goal: woo younger Americans to the Republican side, including some who supported Obama in 2008.
“Younger voters aren’t looking for a party label,” said Kristen Soltis, who advises the new super PAC’s communications. “They’re looking for someone to present a solution for how things are going to get better.”
Crossroads Generation is drawing upon US$750,000 in seed money from Republican organizations like the College Republicans, the Young Republicans, the Republican State Leadership Committee and American Crossroads — itself a super PAC that has raised US$100 million so far this election cycle to defeat Obama and will support the Republican nominee, very likely to be Mitt Romney.
“We want to give a voice to our generation,” said Derek Flowers, 28, the group’s executive director, adding that his generation has faced unprecedented levels of unemployment and debt.
The super PAC is also planning a ground game for this fall, leveraging the roughly 250,000 student-members of the College Republicans who span more than 1,800 campuses across the country.
Obama’s campaign defended the president’s efforts to reduce Generation Y’s unemployment and debt. It said under Obama’s leadership the economy added 4.2 million private-sector jobs and that unemployment among recent college graduates is lower than when Obama took office in January 2009.
Conservative and Republican efforts to target under-30 voters this election cycle have been growing, as groups like Generation Opportunity have tapped into Millennials’ uneasiness about the economy and the ballooning costs of a college degree.
To be sure, they are issues Obama has realized are essential in maintaining the support of younger voters. Just last month, the president pushed for lowering college costs and freezing student loan interest rates — a message he took on the road to three states strategically important for his reelection effort.
Student loan debt has reached roughly US$1 trillion in the United States, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Bank of New York has estimated that 37 million Americans — roughly 15 percent — have outstanding loan debt. About two-thirds of that debt is held by people under 30.