POLITICS

Ohio students open to someone new in White House

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Photo - President Barack Obama shakes hands with students during a visit to Ohio State University. (Getty Images)
President Barack Obama shakes hands with students during a visit to Ohio State University. (Getty Images)
Politics,Hayley Peterson,Campaign 2012,Politics Digest

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- President Obama is losing his edge among young voters in crucial Ohio, where an increasing number of his 2008 college-age supporters, now entering one of the toughest job markets in a generation, say the last four years have changed their view of the president.

Emily Marvin, 23, of Dayton, supported Obama as a first-time voter in 2008. But she won't be voting for him this year.

"I didn't really know the issues last time around," she said. "I liked Obama. I bought into the whole hope and change thing."

But Marvin, now a graduate student at the University of Cincinnati, said only half of her friends found a job after graduation. The others are either unemployed or back in school. She doesn't blame Obama specifically for the economy, but she does think it's time to try something else.

"I think it's a bit of disillusionment, but I don't really think anyone else could have done much better," she shrugged. "I would just like to see what another person could do in office."

Young voters who were so instrumental in helping Obama become America's first black president in 2008 are, four years later, saddled with record student loan debt and soaring unemployment. The jobless rate for those under 29 in August was 12.7 percent, compared with an overall rate of 8.1 percent at that time, according to Generation Opportunity, a D.C.-based organization that studies youth issues.

Obama is trying to reinvigorate students like Marvin by touting his positions on social issues popular among young people -- from reproductive to gay rights -- and stressing his efforts to freeze student loan interest rates.

Obama aides insist young voters' enthusiasm for the president matches the levels of excitement they were seeing during his 2008 campaign, when a record number of young people turned out to support him.

"We are constantly on campuses registering voters, and a couple of weeks ago, we registered 10,000 college students in Ohio in one week alone," an Obama campaign official said.

Republicans say Democrats are exaggerating Obama's support among young voters.

Obama won 61 percent of the votes cast in Ohio by those under age 29 four years ago. His support among those voters has since shrunk to 52 percent, compared with Romney's 42 percent.

"The Democrats are running scared, terrified of not turning out the same support that they had in 2008," said Niraj Antani, an Ohio State University senior and spokesman for the school's College Republicans.

"During our first meeting of College Republicans, we had 275 people there," he boasted. "The Democrats, at their first meeting, actually only had about 175 people."

The Republican student group has logged 600 hours of volunteer work since Aug. 23, made about 20,000 calls and knocked on 1,500 doors, Antani said.

He said he's finding that students who are disillusioned with Obama are easily persuadable to vote for Romney -- students like Phil Alan, 23, of Toledo, who says he considers himself an independent.

Alan bemoaned the state of politics in Washington and said he's not crazy about Obama or Romney.

"Both candidates are terrible," he said.

Asked who he voted for in 2008, Alan quipped, "The guy I'm not going to vote for this time around."

hpeterson@washingtonexaminer.com

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