News / USA

US Presidential Candidates Court Youth Vote

Greg Flakus
A key voting bloc in President Barack Obama's victory four years ago was the youth vote. But his Democratic Party is finding it harder to energize young voters this time around. Young citizens are also beset by economic problems, which Republicans at their national convention say their presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, can fix.

While Republicans convened in Tampa Wednesday, President Obama spoke to cheering students at the University of Virginia.

"Don't just chant, you got to vote!" he said.

Polls show Obama with an advantage among young people, but it will only count if they actually get out and vote.

At the University of Tampa this week, students like Patrick Creedon registered to vote for the first time.

"I am going to be voting and I am going to be voting for Obama," he said.

Creedon says he likes the Democrats because of their positions on social issues like gay marriage and because of Republican plans to change programs like Medicare, which provides health care for seniors.

But University of Tampa student body President Matt Rutkovitz says issues like Medicare are not a concern for most of his contemporaries.

"Students aren't necessarily worried about when they are 50, 60, 70 years old, and I just think that Medicare and Medicaid are not important topics for students right now," he said.

Young people are also very tolerant and sometimes reluctant to confront those who hold different opinions.

Imani Cruz says she avoids political arguments with fellow students.

"They have a right to their opinion. I would not like anyone to put their opinion on me and I would not want to do that to somebody else," she said.

But many politically active young people do express their opinions, and hundreds took to the streets in Tampa this week to condemn Republican policies.

Most of the delegates inside the convention hall are mature adults, many having spent years working for their political party.

But every now and then you do see a young face.

One of the youngest delegates to the convention is 18-year-old Hamilton Zachariahs, who believes many people his age are disappointed by Obama.

"I think that young people will see that they are not getting the jobs they want out of college and what they were promised they did not get, and so I think a lot of young voters might see what Romney has to offer," he said.

Hamilton's father, Gary Zachariahs, an immigrant from India, thinks his son may run for office some day.

"The sky is the limit. This is America, of course!" he said.

And no doubt there will be other parents of other young political activists taking part next week in the Democratic convention, after these Republicans have gone home.

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