Hillary Clinton’s campaign is working hard to woo young voters in New Hampshire -- a group that voted overwhelmingly in favor of her opponent, Bernie Sanders, just 8 months ago. But Wednesday, the two worked together to try and get those same young voters as excited about Clinton as they once were for Sanders.
Hillary Clinton’s event yesterday at UNH had all the trappings of a big political rally. It attracted over one thousand attendees who stood in line for hours to get in. There were Clinton yard signs along campus streets and Clinton volunteers with clipboards dotted the sidewalks.
But talk to UNH students like senior Peter Guarino, and you hear something like this.
“Like, to be honest, I think a lot of guys that were here were really pushing for Bernie. There are a lot of people here that are just so against Trump that we’re just like let’s just go for Hillary and get her in office so that Trump won’t be in office.”
This is a problem facing Clinton this November in swing states like New Hampshire.
When Sanders won the primary here back in February, he did so with huge margins among young voters. Exit polls showed upwards of 80 percent of 18-29 year-olds chose the 75 year-old Vermont Senator.
Clinton meanwhile has struggled to attract the same kind of enthusiasm from young voters.
But to win against Donald Trump this November, Clinton will need those young voters --who lean Democratic but who are less likely to turn out-- to get excited again.
One way the Clinton campaign is hoping to do that, is by bringing out the candidate who has already done it.
”So is everybody here ready to transform America? You’ve come to the right place.”
Sanders helped to outline Clinton’s plans for free community colleges and debt-free public universities for students of families making less than 125 thousand dollars a year.
College affordability was a major issue for Sanders during the primary, and one of the clearest examples of how he pushed Clinton’s general election platform to the left.
Sanders asked the audience to make sure those ideas now make it all the way to the Whitehouse.
“So I am asking you here, today, not only to vote for Secretary Clinton, but to work hard to get your uncles and your aunts, to get your friends to vote.”
But whether putting Sanders on the same stage as Clinton is enough to transfer the enthusiasm of young voters from one candidate to the other is far from certain.
Even yesterday’s crowd skewed older than you might expect for an event held on a college campus.
But Jake Adams, a sophomore who grew up in Gilford and a former volunteer for the Sanders campaign, takes an optimistic view.
“Bernie won New Hampshire and there was definitely a lot of excitement here on campus, but there’s also a lot of excitement for Clinton. And I think, especially this long after the primary, the vast majority of Bernie supporters have not only gotten over the fact that he lost, they’ve gotten behind Clinton.”
Elias Tyrrel-Walker is another former Sanders volunteer turned Clinton supporter at UNH. He’s a bit more skeptical. It’s not the Bernie-or-bust die-hards that trouble him, though. It’s the less-politically active students – the ones drawn into politics for the first time by Sanders that worry him.
“I think a lot of those people who were captivated by Bernie in the primary, might have lost their interest in the general just because he didn’t win. And they see Clinton as the lesser of two evils and I don’t think students respond very well to that.”
Still, Tyrrel-Walker thinks today’s event with both Clinton and Sanders is the right move to get more students excited about a Clinton presidency.
As Clinton took the stage, she wasted no time in addressing the issue herself, praising her former opponent’s popularity with a group that could be the difference for her this November.
“You know Bernie’s campaign energized so many young people. Some of you in this crowd! [Applause] And there is no group of Americans who have more at stake in this election than young Americans.”
And no candidate who has more at stake in getting them to turn out than Hillary Clinton.