President Obama's re-election largely hinges on his ability to play young voters for suckers -- again -- and whether Mitt Romney will let him.
In 2008, Obama won the youth vote by better than a 2-1 margin, 66 percent to 32 percent. Even more impressive, he actually expanded the share of young voters going to the polls by some 3 million. Those extra voters helped tip several swing states.
Obama owed his success to being a charming political unknown onto whom young people could project their hopes. His rhetoric was a hipsterized version of Successories for college kids: "Yes, we can" and "We are the ones we've been waiting for!"
His primary opponents were mostly a herd of political dinosaurs who'd been around since before the invention of not just the Internet, but cable TV. Joe Biden, an early primary opponent, had first run for president two years before your typical first-year college student had been born. Even Obama's main rival, Hillary Clinton, had been a fixture of TV news ever since college kids were still in preschool.
Obama was different. He had that cool name. He was black. He'd never done much that was important, save give some fun speeches, but that was OK; neither had most college students, and that didn't keep them from being special either. More important, they believed his promises, they liked his style, they bought his easy answers and flattering pandering.
Four years later, Obama's in trouble, which is why he's visiting college campuses more often than a Red Bull delivery truck. He's talking louder and getting more shrill, because his campaign knows how desperately it needs to replicate -- or even come close to replicating -- his success with the youth vote in 2008. Polls and countless news stories indicate that young voters are either bored, unimpressed or disappointed with Obama, and with the state of the country.
All of the exciting reasons to vote for Obama are gone. Even his accomplishments don't excite people, never mind his failures. His "Yes, we can" rhetoric is gone because it sounds stupid after four years of "No, we didn't." Now we get cynicism and fear-mongering. His attacks on the Republicans are tawdry and desperate. He even admits the "Buffett Rule" is a gimmick. Other issues like green energy are passé now, even though gas prices continue to soar. (A troubling sign for Obama: Only a third of hybrid car owners are interested in ever getting another after they get rid of the one they have.)