If Tuesday night teaches us anything about young people it is this: Hollywood messaging and in-person contact beats conservative talking points every time.
The youth vote pushed Obama into victory on Tuesday just like it did in 2008, with the President winning 61 percent of the under-30 vote. Is this surprising? No. The Democratic party knew it needed the support of young people, which is why they were on college campuses year-round with Hollywood celebrities and voter registration drives.
Where were conservatives?
Conservative youth super PACs--like Crossroads Generation--fooled their donors and the public eye into thinking they actually had boots on the ground doing aggressive get-out-the-vote (GOTV) work on college campuses. They didn’t, and they need to be held accountable.
Crossroads Generation, a branch of Karl Rove’s American Crossroads (which also epically failed on a national level this election), was allocated $750,000 to start a “conversation” about “why things haven’t gotten better [for young Americans under President Obama], and how things can get better [by voting against the President].” $50,000 was to be spent on an ad campaign, the rest for social media and an aggressive ground game to educate students on the president’s failed policies and get them out to vote for conservatives in November.
In the span of time between May and November, Crossroads Generation created a couple decent ads--one depicting a faded Obama poster scene (their most popular ad) and the other a parody of the “Dollar Shave Club” ad (which no one--myself included--would have understood had they not seen the original ad). They also created a handful of facebook graphics with youth economic statistics that weren’t especially appealing or share-worthy.
Crossroads Generation did have a decent social media following to blast their content to: over 50,000 facebook followers and 13,000 twitter followers. However, one should wonder what percentage of these followers were already strong conservatives and what percentage were actually targeted “Obama saveables”.
But most importantly, where was the supposed ground game? Crossroads Generation claimed they were going to utilize over 250,000 College Republicans on over 1,800 campuses for an aggressive ground game to get out the youth vote.
This was far from reality. I talked to a handful of College Republican leaders on swing state campuses such as University of South Florida, North Carolina State University, Ohio University, and the University of Virginia that said Crossroads didn’t contact them once during those 6 months.
GOP Super PACs have turned out to be a GOP super fail. Consultants are going to put the money where they can earn more money--primarily ads and social media. They know that they won’t make as much money by throwing the money into grassroots work where it actually counts. This is why we lose to the left.
The left knows that person-to-person contact is what wins votes. President Obama spent 1 out of every 9 days on college campuses in 2012--a 175 percent increase over his 2011 appearances. He had organizers on campus year-round doing voter registration drives and GOTV work. The Obama campaign strategically set-up offices on campuses that advertised free food and rides to vote.
But most importantly he appealed to their style. He funded campus events that included stars such as Scarlett Johansson, Ashley Judd, Pitbull, and Katy Perry.
The GOP will never win the youth vote if we aren’t actually on campus with a legitimate ground game. GOP groups such as Crossroads must be held accountable for their failures because it is costing us elections.
Donors need to start realizing that they’re getting zero return for the amount of money they are throwing to shadow organizations like Crossroads Generation. Had Mitt Romney won the same percentage of the youth vote that George W. Bush won in 2004--45 percent--in key swing states, he would have won the election. Maybe Romney would have won had groups such as Crossroads Generation actually utilized the ground game they talked up.
Celia Bigelow--age 22--is the Campus Director for American Majority Action. You can contact her atCelia@am-action.org.