Why is Barack Obama officially kicking off his presidential campaign this weekend at Virginia Commonwealth University and Ohio State University?
Ohio and Virginia are easy since both are key presidential battleground states. But why start on college campuses? The answer is simple. To win re-election, the president needs the same kind of enthusiasm and support from young people he enjoyed in 2008. The president will have to work very hard to capture the magic of his last campaign. Not coincidentally, the Obama campaign just released a new viral ad called the "The Life of Julia" which depicts the positive impact that Obama policies will have on an American woman as she progresses through her life and career.
Rick Santorum may not recognize the importance of a college degree but most people do. A college degree gives young Americans the chance to compete effectively in a cut throat global economy. Helping young people get a college education is not snobbery, it's just common sense. Data shows that college grads are less likely to be unemployed and more likely to make good money than people who don't have degrees.
But the House Republicans want to make it more difficult for young people to compete internationally. Student loan interest rates will double by July 1 unless the GOP gets off its butt. But Republicans in true Darwinian fashion are pitting college students against pregnant women in the struggle for federal aid. But the GOP won't even consider the idea of eliminating federal tax freebies for their budget buddies, the banksters and billionaires to fund college student loans and preventive healthcare for women. The banksters and billionaires have well-heeled lobbyists and millions of dollars to contribute to GOP campaigns. Pregnant women and college students don't have anything that matters to Republicans.
I am a part-time college professor and many of the students I taught this semester won't be back in the fall if House Republicans fail to block the increase in interest rates for college loans. Their absence will be a tragedy for America and our ability to compete in the global economy.
Since Mitt Romney has a degree from Brigham Young University and two degrees from Harvard, he should understand the importance of a college degree. But Mitt Romney doesn't understand anything that matters to most Americans. Romney advised young people who can't afford a college education to borrow money from their parents to go to school. Well that's fine if your dad is as rich as Mitt Romney. But middle class Americans are just barely paying their mortgages and putting food on the table, so lending their kids money for a college education is just a pipe dream and another indication that Richey Romney doesn't have a clue about the problems of working families.
Romney and other Republicans are doing everything they can to drive the millennial generation of Americans between the ages of 18 and 30 back into the Obama fold. When Barack Obama went on Jimmy Kimmel's TV show, the GOP ran a TV ad which criticized the president for being "cool." Since young people like "cool," the Republicans were simply spending their own money to reinforce the Obama message to the millennials.
It's just not the Republican position on college loans that is hurting the party. GOP positions on social issues are also keeping young people in the Democratic camp. Millennials are overwhelmingly prochoice and pro-gay marriage. Young people believe that there should be an easy path to citizenship for immigrants and they support the president's efforts to reform the healthcare system. The religious fundamentalists who dominate Mitt Romney and the GOP scare the living hell out of young people who are suspicious of any kind of religious orthodoxy. According to Morley Winograd and Mike Hais in their book Millennial Makeover, the Republicans will pay an even higher price for their right wing social policies when the growing millennial generation becomes the dominate force in American politics over the next decade.
Republicans feel that the president is too cool for school. But the kids in school will vote again for Barack Obama because of his campaign efforts and because of the help he is getting from Republicans.