Young people helped swing the vote in 2008 with a big turnout, and they helped swing the vote in 2009 as well--by staying home. With Republicans winning big in New Jersey and Virginia, Politico's Ben Smith succinctly sums up what a lot are saying, looking at exit poll data: "The key point is that this wasn't your president's electorate."
So what happened? Whether Democrats--often the beneficiaries of a high youth turnout--should be particularly worried on 2010 depends a lot on figuring why the youth stayed unrocked on Tuesday. Here are some of the answers:
- No Obama on the Ticket Newsweek's politics blog, The Gaggle, is united on this one: "Obama World took the day off," writes Howard Fineman. That might be good news for Democrats, Daniel Stone points out. It means those who voted Republican were "not exactly the same voters from last year who changed their mind after taking Obama for a test drive."
- Uninspired by Democrats Elrod at The Moderate Voice isn't so sure. "Young voters and African Americans did not feel inspired to support the Dems in those states," Elrod writes. "If they feel that way in November 2010 then the consequences will be grave for the Democrats."
- Jon Stewart Failed, and White House Didn't Step In Maegan Carberry at the Huffington Post isn't the first to argue, provocatively, that "it's been up to Jon Stewart and FunnyOrDie.com to keep the kids engaged." The problem with the Obama team, she says, is that "despite its hipster Flickr feed and weekly YouTube address, [the White House] has presented a television-driven strategy, ceding a great deal of its street cred with the president's digital Millennial generation base."
- Odd Years From across the pond, British social scientist Dave Brockington offers a different explanation: "Minorities, the young, the less wealthy, new voters do tend to stay home in odd years." That said, he adds, "while I anticipate an uptick in turnout amongst these groups in 2010, it won't come near the level of 2008."
- Young People Fickle, Bored, and Hate Health Care "Would Obama have had more legislative success," wonders Steve Sailer at the iSteve blog, "if he'd kept the Kids interested by first emphasizing Saving the World through carbon capping instead of something boring and unsexy and will-never-happen-to-me like health care?" Or perhaps, he suggests, Obama was "just a fad, like how my generation decided in 1982-83 that Men at Work was the greatest band in history."