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Obama to students: Get involved in midterms

By Alan Silverleib, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Obama urges students to get involved in the November elections
  • The president acknowledges many people turned off by recent partisan fights
  • Obama says GOP policies will hurt students who benefitted from changes he pushed
  • Younger voters backed Obama overwhelmingly in 2008

Washington (CNN) -- President Barack Obama made an urgent plea Monday for college students to get more involved in the upcoming November midterm elections, warning that a disengaged youth vote could lead to major policy reversals over the next two years.

Speaking on a conference call to student journalists, the president said he wanted to send a message to "young people across the country [about] how important this election is."

Obama said that two years of bitter partisan conflict on Capitol Hill and elsewhere had turned off new voters that had played a key role in his 2008 campaign.

"Naturally some of the excitement and enthusiasm began to drain away," Obama said. While his administration has succeeded in pushing through significant changes in areas such as health care and student loan funding, it seems to many people "like a lot of the old politics is still operation."

But the political process usually involves taking "two steps forward [and] one step back," he said. "It's not always fun and games." You can't expect lasting change if you only engage "once every 10 years in an exciting presidential election" and then "sit it out."

Obama warned the students that the GOP push to extend all of the Bush tax cuts -- including for families making over $250,000 -- could result in student loan cuts, among other things.

"Democracy is never a 'one and done' proposition," he said. "I want everyone to be well-informed and to participate" in the November elections.

Democrats are currently struggling with what many political analysts believe is a major enthusiasm gap between liberals and conservatives. More conservative activists -- spurred in part by the Tea Party movement -- appear far more energized for the stretch run to November.

A sluggish economic recovery, meanwhile, is threatening to turn independent voters back to the GOP while contributing to a growing disaffection among many Democrats.

Obama is scheduled to deliver a series of campaign-style speeches in swing states across the country this week. He'll be in New Mexico and Wisconsin on Tuesday, and Iowa and Virginia on Wednesday. The president will participate in a Democratic National Committee rally in Madison, Wisconsin -- home of the University of Wisconsin and a major Democratic stronghold.

Younger Americans backed Obama overwhelmingly in 2008. Voters age 18 to 29 supported him over Republican nominee John McCain by a whopping 34-point margin, 66 to 32 percent.