Presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., shakes hands as he leaves a Town Hall meeting. He's known for attracting young supporters — but will they turn out at the polls? (AP)
(CBS) “I care about your future,” Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., said.
Former Sen. John Edwards classified young people this way: “Young voters are looking for a cause.”
“Change starts from the bottom up,” said Sen. Barak Obama, D-Ill.
CBS News anchor Katie Couric asks: Who will Rock the Vote this year?
“It's difficult to move younger voters to the polls,” said CBS News director of surveys Kathy Frankovic.
But young voters say they are so over that, because of a day that transformed their generation.
“I feel like that conventional wisdom has just been obliterated because of 9/11, because of the war,” Gideon Yago, a former MTV contributor, said.
And young people cite their concerns as such: "healthcare," "social security," "alternative energy" and "the war."
It was a different war, Vietnam, that pushed record numbers of young people to the polls in 1972.
“Your first vote was one of the best votes you ever cast in your life,” said then-President Richard Nixon.
The voting age was lowered to 18, and President Nixon took advantage of this new bloc, wooing some of them with pretty volunteers known as Nixonettes.
But in elections since, turnout among young voters has been largely disappointing. In fact, many don't even take the first step.
“They aren't even eligible in the sense of being registered to go to the polls, many of them,” Frankovic said.
In Iowa, home of the first presidential contest, only 76 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds are registered to vote, versus 93 percent of those older than 65.
But it's not for lack of trying. It sometimes seems there are more youth outreach efforts than young voters.
Web sites and text messages now reach out to that demographic with the technology they know and love. Candidates visit MySpace/MTV forums and answer questions as they're asked.
Then there are those candid campaign moments captured on YouTube.
Those of us on TV have had to adapt as well - real newscasts, like this one, are supplemented by fake newscasts that and razz and embarrass politicians.
Are they engaging young voters or is this brand of media mocking the message?
“There’s always a worry that somebody watches the headlines and they laugh it off, it kind of diffuses the desire to go out and do something about it,” Yago said.
The calendar could also stand in the way of young people turning out.
This year, the Iowa caucuses are on January 3, when many college kids will be on break. And the convoluted rules the Democrats require make the process even more brutal than the weather.
“It's easy on the Republican side: you just cast a straw vote,” Frankovic said. “On the democratic side you actually have to talk to people and publicly declare your support for a candidate.”
Every candidate wants young voters but Obama needs them. In Iowa, 40 percent of his support comes from people younger than 35. And his campaign is counting on their votes.
But if history is any guide, the most enthusiastic young people may not brave the caucuses - even if they're crazy for a candidate.
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