In its effort to reach out to young voters, Mitt Rommney’s campaign held a conference call with reporters today to discuss what the presumed GOP nominee thinks of President Obama’s record on the youth (not much) and what they have to offer young Americans (also not much).
“President Obama gets an ‘F’ for failing our youth,” said surrogate Hank Brown, a 72-year-old former Republican senator from Colorado who also served as the president of the University of Colorado. Obama was merely “able to fool” the two-thirds of people under 30 who voted for him in 2008, Brown added, before promising, “You’re going to see a dramatic turnaround on the campuses this year, with much stronger support for the Republican ticket.”
So, if Obama was so bad, what would a Romney presidency do instead? The septuagenarian Brown, joined on the call by Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) and College Republican National Committee Chairman Alex Schriver, didn’t really have much to offer.
First, Romney’s surrogates downplayed the importance of issues that directly affect young people. Schock criticized Obama for his “focus on student loan and student debt,” saying the real issue young people care about is jobs. Brown, meanwhile, attacked Obama for not reforming entitlement programs, saying young people should worry about their solvency in the future.
And, while Romney and Obama agree that Congress should extend a provision currently before Congress to extend lower interest rates on some student loans, Schock was not optimistic about his Republican colleagues’ willingness to pass it. The congressman repeatedly called the issue a distraction, saying, “In the grand scheme of things, it’s not what we ought to be — we shouldn’t allow issues like this to bog down the bigger agenda, which is how do create jobs in this country.” He added: “In the meantime, we need to be focused on the bigger issues.”
Meanwhile, Schriver suggested the reason tuition costs are going up is because “this president decided to take over the student loan market.” Schriver is referring to a provision passed along with the Affordable Care Act, that removed Wall Street middlemen from the student loan process. Tuition costs were rising long before the law passed in 2010, and the reform actually saves taxpayers money, so Schriver’s claim rings hollow. But Romney himself has suggested that he would roll back this provision, and insert banks once again in the student loan system, where the money comes from taxpayers and the middlemen merely add costs with profit.
In all, the call mentioned not a single positive program to help young people directly, offering only attacks on Obama and generalized prescriptions for the entire economy.
Not mentioned on the call is how young people wold be negatively impacted by other policies Romney supports, starting with the House Republican budget authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). The proposal, which Romney has strongly endorsed (and Schock voted for), would allow student loan interest rates to double, and would cut $200 billion from the Pell Grant program, kicking off over 1 million students.
Romney also wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, including its provision that allows kids up to 26 years old to remain on their parents’ health insurance plans. More than 2.5 million young adults had already received coverage, as of December, under this part of the law, and would presumably lose it if Romney has his way.
A new poll from Harvard University shows Obama widening his lead over Romney among voters 18 to 29, now enjoying a 17 point lead, a gain of six points from the last poll in November.