WASHINGTON– If the former communications director for the Obama campaign had to bet on it, he’d say voter turnout among young people will decline in 2012.
“I hope I’m wrong, because, I think some of the issues [in this election] impact you all,” Robert Gibbs said, as he addressed a room packed full of American University students Monday night. “If you don’t get involved, somebody will and it won’t be on your behalf.”
The former White House press secretary, who currently serves as an outside adviser to the Obama administration, changed posts in January of this year. Gibbs gave his take on the 2012 election to AU students, and even made some bold election predictions.
“I think in the Republican side of this, there are a lot of twists and turns that are left to go. Though I will say this: I think there’s a 95-99 percent chance that the Republican nominee is either named Rick Perry or Mitt Romney.” He does not think anybody else will have the money, organization, or intensity to capture enough of a following to gain a foothold.
“I think this is going to be an enormously close election.” Gibbs revealed that he’s had that thought since the beginning of 2011 while he was still at the White House, when a number of Republican candidates chose not to run, and when he heard Osama Bin Laden had been killed.
“It’s been enormously fascinating this far,” Gibbs said as he referenced the 2012 election. “We’ve already watched on the Republican side, an enormously fascinating race. The calendar says September and it’s getting to be a little cooler in the air. It sort of feels like we’re getting toward the end of this thing. It’s remarkable, I was struck the most of all by how much this campaign, as fascinating as it’s been, how much it’s still in its infancy.”
Gibbs is one of the people responsible for the targeted messaging that brought young Americans out to the polls in record numbers in 2008. He expressed both hope and doubt that the Obama campaign would repeat those numbers in 2012.
According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, 52% of Americans between the ages of 18-29 voted in the 2008 presidential election — 68% of them, turning out for Obama. With Obama receiving 52.7% of the aggregate popular vote in ’08, young people who make up 21% of the voting populous still play a crucial roll in the re-election or defeat of President Obama.
To break that down – if 21% of eligible voters are between the ages of 18-29, 68% of that group voted for Obama, and the 2008 election was decided by about 10 million votes, then young people could make or break the president’s chance at a second term in the White House.
“This is going to be a very very very close election. It is likely if you average it all out, it will be decided by a few votes here and there, per precinct all over this country,” Gibbs said.
Like many of the Republican candidates for president have told The Virgin Voting Project, Gibbs also asserted, “there is more at stake for you than just about anybody else… And I think if you’re a college student and you’re about to head out into the economy that we’re in, there might not be a more important group that is interested in that issue more than you are.”
“They don’t send 40-year-olds to Iraq and Afghanistan – they send 18-year-olds,” Gibbs concluded. “There is nothing about our democracy that propels itself each day without involvement and participation.”