College Republicans ramp up youth voter targeting efforts with new ad in Iowa

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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The College Republican National Committee (CRNC) is launching a television ad in Iowa this week with the goal of energizing young voters to get involved in the political process in a state that will host the first electoral contest of the presidential primary season.

Unlike typical political ads, the CRNC spot features pop culture references and an upbeat tempo with young people asking viewers about the $5 trillion per decade interest on the national debt. It calls on Iowa’s college students to ask presidential candidates, who will be courting their state’s voters over the coming months, what their plan is to fix the deficit?

But CRNC spokesman Rob Lockwood told The Daily Caller that what is most important is that ads like this help Republicans appeal to young voters who have been supporting Democratic candidates in recent years. Republicans got young voters on their side when re-electing Ronald Reagan in 1984 and when electing George H.W. Bush in 1988. Lockwood said he expects the GOP to win back many young voters who supported Obama in 2008 but have become disillusioned by the president’s policies.

WATCH: CRNC’s new advertisement:

This new ad comes on the heels of the CRNC’s “The Breakup” advertisement, which showed college students expressing their dissatisfaction with Obama’s inability to fulfill campaign promises of “hope” and “change.”

“The ad looks nothing like any other ad you’ve ever seen, except for The Breakup,” Lockwood said in a phone interview. “It’s kind of a music video, in some ways. It mocks Obama sort of playfully, but not maliciously, and it pokes fun at ‘Winning the future.’”

The ad plays off Hollywood basket case Charlie Sheen and his popular slogan, “winning.” “The next thing it says,” Lockwood said referring to the ad, “is ‘Winning the Future?’ More like ‘Losing the Future.’”

“Clearly, that saying is, not just among young people, but anyone in this Internet, social media, Facebook, Twitter phase, you can find in conversation saying, ‘Hashtag Winning,’” Lockwood said.

The CRNC ad is set to run during nightly news programming and on channels like ESPN, Comedy Central and Fox in Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, Waterloo and Ames. These are locations and channels, “where young people are watching,” Lockwood said.

In 2008, Republican presidential candidate John McCain won only 37 percent 18- to 29-year-olds. But Republicans have had some success since then in attracting a larger share of young voters. In Wisconsin in 2010, for instance, newly-elected Gov. Scott Walker took 45 percent of the youth vote and newly elected Sen. Ron Johnson took 46 percent, compared to Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s 35 percent of the youth vote in Wisconsin in 2008. In Ohio in 2010, newly elected Sen. Rob Portman took 45 percent of the 18- to 29-year-old demographic compared to McCain’s 35 percent in the state in the 2008 presidential election. Pennsylvania’s new Republican Governor, Tom Corbett, benefited from 45 percent of the youth vote in 2010 as well, a 10 percent increase from McCain’s 2008 performance in the state among the youth demographic.

Sen. Scott Brown, Massachusetts Republican, won the youth vote in his state in 2010, a traditionally far-left electorate. Gov. Bob McDonnell also won the youth vote in Virginia during his election effort in 2009 and New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie came close to doing the same in his 2009 election victory.

Lockwood credits lots of the new youth victories to state-level campaigns his College Republicans launched. He said his group of conservative activists reached more than 2.1 million voters in 2010, while targeting only five states: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Nevada and Florida. In 2012, he said he expects similar results on a much grander scale as the CRNC is planning to expand its organizing efforts to between 35 and 40 states.