In this election’s Democratic contest, it appears that the college vote has finally made a difference. Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.) secured the Democratic bid for the presidency through the support of college students, 70 percent of whom came out to the polls for him.
But is this really a surprise? College students across America are going crazy for Barack Obama. Obama buttons are pinned to backpacks and bags. Obama stickers are slapped onto binders and laptops. Obama signs are taped up to dorm walls and windows. Eager college students huddle up to the televisions in the Marvin Center whenever he is speaking – this guy is the Hannah Montana of the college crowd.
Meanwhile, about 57 percent of those earning under $50,000 and 62 percent of those who are not college graduates voted for Obama’s top competition for the bid, Hillary Clinton. Political commentators agree that if Obama is to have any chance of winning in the general election, he must win the votes of these Americans in the upcoming months.
But that doesn’t mean Obama can forget about college students either. For example, in his attempts to get defective Clintonites back onto his side, Obama won’t be able to engage in any of the populist “us versus them” rhetoric that became the hallmark of the Clinton campaign. College students, though liberal, are still considered privileged and certainly won’t take kindly to being demonized by the Democratic candidate.
This may prove to be the trickiest part of Obama’s maneuvering in this upcoming campaign. Obama is not running against a radical conservative; instead, he is facing a closer-to-mainstream war hero who certainly commands respect. John McCain may be closer to the working class’s political radar than Barack Obama, and Obama cannot take any moderate-to-liberal votes for granted. Voting for McCain would not be as painful for these people as Obama’s campaign may like to believe.
The college student support also will affect how Obama approaches issues such as Social Security. Although Social Security reform was at the top of politicians lungs in 2005, Obama has been dead silent on the issue, at least while in the public eye. Even the most liberal college students have jaded opinions of the program and many like the privatization idea. Obama strongly opposes that, but you won’t hear much about it from him in this campaign.
For being such a ‘change’ year, this election is surprisingly close as of yet, with John McCain and Barack Obama tied in polls and the electoral map nearly split down the middle. The youth vote could be what spikes Obama over the fence into the White House if students turn out in the numbers Obama’s campaign has hoped for. College-age turnout has always disappointed by being lower than expected; but then again, college students haven’t been this excited about a candidate in a long time.
The writer, a sophomore majoring in political science, is a Hatchet columnist.