By Nikki Schwab, Washington Whispers
Looking back on Election '08, it's common knowledge that the youth vote played a key role in pushing Barack Obama over his first finish line at the Iowa caucuses, which helped him build the momentum to eventually topple Hillary Clinton's candidacy and then John McCain's. But Hans Riemer, former Youth Vote director for Obama, revealed that the credit for Iowa should be given to high school students, not necessarily their college-age peers.
"I don't know if they think of themselves in this way, but I really think that the high school class of 2008 changed the world in Iowa," Riemer says. "I think Barack won in Iowa and then he won the election—it really came down to Iowa." Under Iowa caucus rules, many 17-year-olds were eligible to participate in the January 3 caucuses, so the Obama campaign honed in on high schools more closely than campaigns may have in the past. Also, to win Iowa, a candidate has to win the majority of caucus sites. "We realized that if we could get 20 kids from all 500 high schools, we would be putting ourselves potentially over the top in almost every caucus in the state," says Riemer. The Obama campaign's strategy worked, as Obama won the Iowa caucus, elbowing out both John Edwards and Hillary Clinton to become a serious contender for the Democratic nomination and the presidency.