As the 2024 campaign kicks into gear, House Democrats are acknowledging a challenging reality: Many young voters aren’t enthusiastic about voting for President Joe Biden.
Several Democrats told us they’re hearing from younger, more progressive constituents who are fed up with Biden’s stance on the Israel-Hamas war, his recent rhetoric on immigration and his administration’s record on climate.
“It’s hard for young people to see really powerful worker and climate wins from the president when you have so much continued death and destruction happening in Gaza and while we’re backpedaling on thoughtful immigration policy,” progressive freshman Rep. Greg Casar (D-Texas) told us.
Four years ago, Biden bested former President Donald Trump on the back of strong support from young voters.
Since then, the Biden administration has delivered a number of wins on issues important to young voters, including the recent move to restrict natural gas exports, which has been hailed as a climate game-changer by activist groups.
But Biden, who’s long represented the more centrist wing of the Democratic Party, is — in the eyes of House Democrats — struggling to win over these more idealistic voters for his reelection bid. Here’s what Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) told us.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) said enthusiasm “must definitely rise” for Democrats to win the election.
“We’re not doing well,” Cleaver said. “If the election were held tomorrow, [youth voter apathy] would be a major problem.”
We also heard from multiple members that the potential Biden-Trump rematch — between two white men born in the 1940s — isn’t the most exciting choice for voters born in the 21st century.
If young voters decide to sit out on the election, that would likely not only be bad news for Biden. It could also be a problem for House and Senate Democrats in tight races who are counting on the same voters to help them secure victory.
Biden v. the couch: The Biden campaign says it is focused on young voters and highlighted that it hired a director of youth engagement — Eve Levenson — at an earlier point in time than previous presidential campaigns. And Biden’s $140 million war chest will be utilized to deploy voter outreach efforts in the months to come before election day.
“Young people are voting like their rights depend on it, because they do,” Levenson said in a statement. “They know Donald Trump doesn’t care about them and if elected he’ll actively make their lives worse.”
The Biden campaign has also been dispatching key surrogates like Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.) to swing states. Frost recently spoke with gun violence survivors in Las Vegas and reported that there was strong support for Biden among base Democratic voters in Nevada.
“I did hear from some of them that they’re concerned about enthusiasm outside of that base,” Frost said. “My concern with young voters is that our main opponent isn’t Trump, it’s the couch.”
The optimists’ view: Biden’s Hill supporters pointed us to his write-in victory in the New Hampshire primary as a sign of strength.
Leading progressive Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) and Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) rallied voters in the Granite State to back Biden. Rep. Annie Kuster (D-N.H.) credited their presence with strong young and minority Biden support in the cities of Nashua and Manchester.
Raskin said he told young voters that while “this is Joe Biden’s last presidential election as a candidate, it’s your first presidential election.”
“Whatever the chronological distances between Joe Biden and them, it’s irrelevant because we need them engaged right now,” Raskin added. “That seemed to resonate with them, but they are waiting for us to show that we’re interested in their views.”
— Mica Soellner and Max Cohen