With the Presidential election in November approaching, both President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney are making their rounds, solidifying their talking points and trying to create an image that entices voters.
But some voters still aren’t buying it.
Four years ago, Obama won due in part to a large contingent of youthful voters, many of whom were idealistic and tired of Republican leadership. In the time that Obama has held his seat in the Oval Office, many of those voters have finished college. And a large number of them have struggled to find employment, have moved back in with their parents and have had their idealistic worldviews bludgeoned by the stark realities of coming of age during hard financial times.
The promise of “hope” and “change” isn’t likely to encourage many of the disenfranchised youths to cast an Obama ballot, and the President’s new mantra, “forward,” has likely left many wondering: “Unto what?”
What the President lacks in kept promises to these voters, Romney matches in his inability to excite them (or just about anyone, if headlines are an indicator). The two candidates have left many in the group feeling like the 2012 election will be a pointless one.
Consider the polling numbers. Most polls indicate that Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 are still more likely to vote for Obama than for Romney, but by a margin of only about 12 percentage points. For those aged 25 to 29, old enough to have been heavily politically involved during the last election cycle, the gap is about half that.
The numbers indicate that in the latter bloc, about 30 percent of the likely voters remain undecided. The younger voters, according to some experts, will likely be the most malleable.
“The concern for Obama, and the opportunity for Romney, is in the 18- to 24-year-olds who don’t have the historical or direct connection to the campaign or the movement of four years ago,” John Della Volpe, director of polling at the Harvard Institute of Politics told The New York Times. “We’re also seeing that these younger members of this generation are beginning to show some more conservative traits. It doesn’t mean they are Republican. It means Republicans have an opportunity.”
Republicans aren’t the only ones who see an opportunity in the shifting political mindset of American youths.
Ron Paul has been heavily supported by young people throughout his long-shot bid for Republican nomination, and his efforts and supporters are likely going to yield him a moment in the spotlight and a heavy presence of support at the upcoming Republican National Convention. The question remains: How will he use it, and what will he direct his notoriously dedicated supporters to do?
Increasingly, Libertarians are calling on Paul to throw his might behind their man, Gary Johnson. With Paul tethered to the GOP, they argue, he could still win a further victory for his liberty movement by working to ensure that the third-party candidate is allotted a place on the debate stage alongside Romney and Obama.
Johnson has made it clear that one of his primary goals during the campaign is to get into the debate. But, due to rules imposed by the major parties, he must first achieve a 15 percent favorability rating in three national polls. This, many of his supporters argue, is completely achievable if Paul is willing to steer his supporters to Johnson’s side. Currently, Johnson polls around 5 to 8 percent in some national polls and Paul has achieved 10 to 15 percent favorability at times. Combined, Johnson supporters argue, Americans would be given a fresh alternative to the ideas posited by Romney and Obama during the nationally televised debates.
Mainstream Republicans and Democrats give the same reason for excluding Johnson from the debates that has always been given about leaving out third-party candidates: He will cost either Romney or Obama votes and skew the election in the favor of the wrong “real” candidate. But Johnson thinks this is bunk and is confident that if Americans are allowed to hear his ideas alongside those of Obama and Romney, Libertarian votes would pour in come November.
“Anything can happen [in the debates]. That could be crash and burn. [Or] it could bring attention to what it is I am saying, my resume,” he said in a recent interview. “I think a lot more people in this country describe themselves as libertarian as opposed to voting libertarian. I think my voice is representative of the fastest growing segment of American politics today, which is libertarian.”
To many voters, Johnson could offer the best of both worlds; but barring inclusion in the debate, he is unlikely to be taken seriously at all.