How not to compete for the youth vote


A couple of weeks ago, Mitt Romney said something unexpected about American higher education: families worried about affording college tuition should expect no help from a Romney administration. Indeed, the former governor said students should shop around for colleges with the best rates, because Americans will be on their own.

It set up a striking contrast. On the one hand, there’s President Obama, who considers his student-loan reforms to be among his key domestic achievements, including doubling the investment in Pell Grants, and creating the “American Opportunity Tax Credit” that gave 9.4 million families a break on tuition rates. On the other, there’s his likely Republican opponent, telling students and their families, “Good luck figuring something out.”

My first reaction to this was, “Romney just lost the youth vote.” Apparently, Romney doesn’t see it that way.

For those who can’t watch clips on line, Romney said in Chicago yesterday, “I don’t see how a young American can vote for, well, can vote for a Democrat.” He added that his party is “consumed with the idea” with debt reduction, which will help alleviate burdens on young people.

Even for Romney, this is deeply strange.

For one thing, Romney wants to eliminate the entirety of the Affordable Care Act, which will immediately take health care coverage away from millions of young people aged 18 to 25, who can remain on their family plans thanks to the reform law. It’s quite a message Romney is pitching to these young folks: Vote for me and I promise to take away your health insurance.

For another, Romney also wants to scrap college aid for millions of younger Americans. For this constituency, it’s one of the single biggest issues on the policy landscape, and the former governor’s message to them is, “Tough luck.”

And finally, even if we buy the notion that debt reduction is worthwhile and that young people are concerned about it, Romney’s economic plan features massive tax breaks the country can’t afford, which will in turn make the debt significantly worse.

The Republican frontrunner simply can’t fathom why younger voters would back Democrats? Maybe he just needs to think about it a little more.

Mitt Romney

How not to compete for the youth vote