Consider the counties where Obama spoke last week. In Orange County, N.C., Obama won 72 percent of the vote. He did better in only one of the state's 99 other counties, Durham, which has a large black population plus Duke University.
Obama carried Johnson County, Iowa, with 70 percent of the vote, more than in any of Iowa's other 98 counties. He carried Boulder County, Colo., with 72 percent, a mark exceeded in that state only in Denver, one rural Hispanic county and two counties with fashionable ski resorts (Aspen, Telluride).
What Obama doesn't seem to have done in 2008 is mobilize more economically marginal and educationally limited young people, except perhaps among blacks.
His problem this year is that there are a lot more economically marginal young people, including many who are not educationally limited.
Young people are notoriously transient, and it's hard for political organizers to track them down. Harder perhaps this year, with many recent college graduates unable to find jobs and a rising percentage of young people moving in with their parents.
Few young Americans bothered to vote in Republican primaries, and young people's attitudes toward Mitt Romney seem frosty. They still know little about him.
That gives him a chance to argue that Obama's economic policies have failed and that his policies can spark an economic revival that will provide myriad opportunities for the iPod/Facebook generation to find satisfying work where they can utilize their special talents.
In his campus speeches, Obama stumped for keeping low interest rates on student loans. But young people may be figuring out that colleges and universities are gobbling up the money government pours in, leaving them saddled with debt.
It's a side issue. The Harvard survey showed 58 percent of Millennials saying the economy was a top issue and only 41 percent approving Obama's handling of it. Like Romney, they seem to be saying, "It's the economy, and we're not stupid."
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