Regarding the 2016 presidential election, it’s déjà vu all over again, to borrow a phrase from Yogi Berra. As in 2006, Hillary Clinton appears to be the inevitable Democratic nominee and no likely Republican contender has what it takes to stop her coronation. This time, she may get it, if Republicans don’t change course.
It’s important to remember why 2008 did not produce for Hillary the results that had been deemed inevitable in 2006. She was taken out by the Chicago-style, Alinsky-inspired campaign of the young Senator Barack Obama. Presented with the opportunity to elect the first black president, Democratic-primary voters knew she had 20 years left in the tank and said, “We’ll get back to you.”
The biggest driver of this historic upset was the youth vote. Hillary was upstaged by the unqualified Obama in large part because of the support he rallied on college campuses. In every primary, the Obama campaign increased youth turnout significantly from 2004 levels and won that demographic by nearly 20 percent. The most impressive grassroots effort in American political history turned out enthused, starstruck primary voters and toppled Hillary.
But now Hillary is getting a head start on her 2016 run — and she’s starting on college campuses, with one of Obama’s key demographics. It’s time for Republicans to take note.
Mother Jones details how the super PAC Ready for Hillary is already organizing aggressively at universities to solidify the likelihood of her nomination. From the start, the PAC hired former Obama-campaign youth-vote coordinator Rachel Schneider to head up its youth-vote efforts. There are already 33 Students for Hillary groups nationwide, and the numbers are growing.
The PAC is also engaging 270 Strategies, a consulting firm founded by two former Obama-campaign supporters. They’ve already begun employing the “snowflake model,” which allows each campus chapter to apply its own particular strategy in voter recruitment. The snowflake model helped Obama turn out young voters in droves.
Hillary is off to a formidable start, and she hasn’t even formally started campaigning. So the question arises: Where are Republicans on campus?
Republicans are constantly speaking of making a stronger effort to reach college students. But what have they done in that regard? On campuses, Republicans are a full-throated choir of crickets. Actions speak louder than words.
Republicans need to realize that there are enough votes on college campuses to turn an election, especially in Ohio, Virginia, and other swing states. Voters ages 18 to 29 are nearly 20 percent of the electorate. While there is no way to predict at this point the Republican nominee in 2016, there is no need to predict the importance of youth turnout. It is known.
A CIRCLE study has shown that if Romney had won just 45 percent of the youth vote in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Florida, he would have won the election.
Republicans need to organize behind a message that taps into libertarian notions of individual freedom and patriotism. Students inherently love freedom and at the same time want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Republicans have scarcely attempted to reach them on either point.
The Clinton machine will reach them. They will say whatever needs to be said, no matter the situation. There is no tale too tall, no promise too grand. And so Hillary quickly changed residency to run for U.S. Senate, changed her position on same-sex marriage, and stretched the truth about the Benghazi attacks. The truth gives way to the exigencies that getting elected entails.
Hillary Clinton will stop at nothing to get elected. On college campuses the question is: When will Republicans start to do anything?
— Charlie Kirk is the founder and executive director of Turning Point USA, a youth movement dedicated to energizing students around the principles of limited government and free markets. Kirk appears frequently on Fox News and the Fox Business Network.