The 68-year old former secretary of state has Democratic establishment backing, key union endorsements and strong support from seniors, yet has thus far been unable to crack the code with millennials and GenXers
Clinton also taped an appearance on the Comedy Central show "Broad City"
Lena Dunham is going to travel for her. Christina Aguilera headlined a fundraiser for her. America Ferrera has vocally backed her.
But despite the hip celebrity love, Hillary Clinton is having trouble with the kids.
The 68-year old former secretary of state has Democratic establishment backing, key union endorsements and strong support from seniors, yet has thus far been unable to crack the code with millennials and GenXers. In Iowa and New Hampshire, Bernie Sanders, her 74-year old primary opponent, is winning nearly 60% of voters under 45 years old. Sanders is beating Clinton 41%-35% among Democratic millennials, according to The Harvard Institute of Politics’ annual survey of millennials, released last week. And among all age groups, she’s running neck-and-neck in some head-to-head polls against the pair of 44-year-old GOP senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
It’s a sticking point for the otherwise dominant Democrat. In 2008, Clinton’s campaign lost the youth vote to then-Sen. Barack Obama and eventually lost the Democratic nomination. While she is on far more stable footing this time around, the concern among some Democrats supporting Clinton is that the deficit with young voters may be more emblematic of a wider enthusiasm problem that could hurt her in the general election.
So the campaign behind one of the most experienced and well-known politicians is working on millennials with renewed gusto.
She joined Snapchat, launched her account with a lighthearted selfie about “chillin in Cedar Rapids” and snapped about Planned Parenthood. She has participated in interviews aimed at young people, like when she chatted with BuzzFeed’s Another Round podcast. And the campaign has worked with internet “influencers” like Karen Civil.
Aguilera hosted a fundraiser for Clinton earlier this year, Ferrera has helped headline events for Clinton and Dunham, the star of HBO’s “Girls” will campaign for the former secretary of state’s presidential bid in Iowa in January.
Clinton also taped an appearance on the Comedy Central show “Broad City” to air next year.
And Chelsea Clinton – seen as an asset with younger voters and students – will become a more prominent voice in the campaign as well. The former first daughter headlined a fundraiser with her mother Thursday in New York, will headline two more in Boston in January and plans to start traveling to early nominating states like Iowa and New Hampshire early in 2016.
Playing the gender card
Clinton aides are still confident that despite the polling that shows their boss trailing with young voters, she will be able to win them over by speaking directly to issues that they care about, namely college affordability, social issues and women’s rights. They also feel targeted rollouts like the one she made on campus sexual assaults in Iowa earlier this year will help.
The gender card is key because it gets at something young voters love: her potential to become the first woman president, said Monmouth University Poll director Patrick Murray.
“One of the things she should probably hit on more is the historic nature of her candidacy,” Murray said.
The disparity can be seen at the campaign’s respective rallies. Sanders’ supporters, particularly in Iowa and New Hampshire, are generally younger, often with more unruly hair, thick plastic hipster glasses and the occasional waft of patchouli. And Clinton’s supporters generally appear a little older and a little more kempt.
Nancy Sweetman, a longtime Clinton supporter, first saw Sanders speak at Iowa’s Wing Ding dinner in August. After only a few minutes at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Sweetman said she noticed how much older Clinton supporters were.
“In my lifetime I would like to see a woman that I agree with in the White House,” said the 71-year old retiree who said she remembers a time when the thought of a woman president was laughable. “That is a part of it.”
Sanders leads, but will young voters show?
Even amid the Clinton campaign’s focus on young voters, Sanders, the oldest candidate seeking the White House, has held onto a strong lead among young voters – a seeming anomaly that makes even a few Sanders aides chuckle.
A Des Moines Register poll last week found that Clinton has the support of 64% of Iowa Democrats 65 and older, while Sanders has the support of 58% of people younger than 45. A Fox News poll found similar results in New Hampshire: Sanders wins 59% of people under 45, while Clinton wins 52% of people over than 45.
Lynda Tran, a partner at 270 Strategies and a former spokeswoman for President Barack Obama’s separate campaign arm –Organizing for America – said that for Clinton, the best strategy is probably staying the course she’s already charted, Tran said.
“The Clinton campaign team in particular has already demonstrated real savvy in their approach, with concerted efforts on everything from Snapchat to Periscope, from college organizing teams to interviews with thought leaders and perceived trendsetters like Lena Dunham,” she said.
But young voters are still less politically engaged than their older counterparts who are far more likely to not only vote in November, but show up at caucus night in Iowa. In 2004, voters 17-to-29 made up 17% of the Iowa Democrats who caucused that year, a dismal turnout of 4%. Even in 2008, where young participation was at an all-time high in Iowa thanks to Obama, only 22% of the electorate was 17-to-29 years old, the same portion of the voters that were 65-and-older.
And the Harvard survey reported that only 20% of millennials said they were engaged and fewer than half of the respondents said they were following the 2016 campaign.
That, however, won’t stopped Clinton from trying.
Clinton used Snapchat to knock Republicans while acknowledging that she is aware the latest Star Wars movie was coming out at midnight.
“This year,” read Clinton’s Snapchat account, “Republicans reminded us that the Dark Side is alive and well.”