GOP talks youth vote for 2010 election at Lincoln Days

Campaigns are using more social media and student groups.
Congressional candidate Jacob Turk, R-Kansas City, speaks to the Missouri Federation of Young Republicans on Saturday afternoon during Missouri Lincoln Days in the St. Charles Convention Center. Turk spoke about the importance of the youth vote in Kansas City.

Rep. Steven Tilley, R-Perryville, wants to have more fun.

Tilley, the House majority floor leader, told a crowd of college-age Republicans on Saturday he wanted to improve the atmosphere of the Lincoln Days convention from that of last year's gathering in Kansas City.

"I thought that we were not the 'Republican Party' but the 'No Fun' party," he said. "There were no young people, there was no energy, there was no excitement."

Seeking to generate the same turnout among young voters that propelled Democrats to victory in 2008, the state Republican Party and its leaders tried to increase youth involvement in the party at its annual Lincoln Days gathering in St. Charles. Many chapters of college-age Republicans were invited and many campaigns featured young voters as campaign workers.

At Saturday's meeting, he said young party members who come to Lincoln Days should be involved with policymaking and platform shaping rather than menial campaign grunt work.

"I think the Democratic Party is the same way," he said. "We look at young people as people who knock on doors, distribute fliers, people who can put on stickers, but then you don't want their opinion."

Communication was also a key part of the strategy. Tilley said the party had done a poor job reaching out to young people in recent election cycles. Citing the 2008 presidential election, he said a young woman he knew had received constant updates via text message from President Barack Obama's campaign while her brother, a Republican, had received almost no updates.

Central Missouri Young Republicans spokesman Mike Zweifel said his members try to connect with young voters through a Facebook group, but they would probably convert it to a fan page to recruit more followers. He said the Facebook group has 128 members after four years on the Web.

"We're using social media, but we've got to figure out how to use it better," he said.

Avery Anderson, a sophomore at Westminster Christian Academy in St. Charles, wore a Roy Blunt campaign T-shirt while handing out information at Saturday's events. Anderson said the complicated issues being debated at the national level, such as health care reform, had decreased interest in politics among some of her friends but had made her want to learn more.

"It doesn't discourage me," she said. "I think it gives me a reason why I should know more about it. I like to know why I should think things."

Zweifel said his group is also trying to persuade people to join the party by stressing a message of reduced spending. He said recent increases in anger about federal bailouts and the national debt could drive young voters to support that message.

"Part of it is emphasizing the amount of spending that is going on," he said. "People who aren't even born yet already have $50,000 in debt."

Zweifel was referencing the amount of the national debt per citizen in the nation. According to the U.S. Treasury, the national debt equals about $12.4 trillion. When divided by population figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, this equals about $40,000 for each citizen.

Luke Votaw, a freshman at Fort Zumwalt High School also working for the Blunt campaign, said he became interested in Republican politics after watching the 2004 presidential debates.

He said Republicans have tried to involve more people in recent campaign efforts, and young people should stay informed and be a part of the political process.

"I do think younger people need to be more involved to have a better understanding of the issues," he said.

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