Vice President Kamala Harris is running point this October luring university students into registering to vote, voting blue, and sending the Biden Bunch to the winner’s circle come November 2024. Sure, she’s young compared to the boss, attractive, even. The VP is a giggly speaker who claims she smoked weed in college and loves the rap artist Cardi B. But is she as cool as the other side of the pillow? Or is Harris just the only one on the team that isn’t notably aged? It’s all unfolding on the Fight for Our Freedoms College Tour.
“This generation is critical to the urgent issues that are at stake right now for our future. It is young leaders throughout America who know what the solutions look like and are organizing in their communities to make them a reality,” read a statement from the VP’s office. Issues highlighted include abortion rights, gun safety, LGBTQ+ equality, book bans, climate action, and voting rights.
Harris started her month-long lallapalooza at Hampton University in Virgina, and then hit the College of Southern Nevada and the College of Charleston at the end of last week (Oct, 13 and 14). The White House claims she primarily focuses on “community colleges, historically Black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, apprenticeship programs and state schools.” So far, the VP has been well received within the progressive university enclaves. But will that translate to action among the prospective youthful voters?
Are the Kids Alright?
The 18-25 voter demographic helped Joe Biden ascend to the presidency. Perhaps it was more a message against President Trump than a response to his promise to save the soul of a nation. But regardless of the incentive, the results were clear: “Gen Z and Millennial voters favored Biden over Trump by margins of about 20 points,” reported Pew Research Center.
However, after two-and-a-half years of an economy in ruin, ongoing aid to the Ukrainian fight against Russia, and a complete reversal on building the border wall and immigration, what can Harris say to support the Biden-Harris ticket with this growing demographic? Younger voters, especially college students, are liberal leaners. Yet Harris has been faced with criticism by college students on her tours that older Democrats have not.
Two Hampton University 18-year-old freshmen, Jaden Clemons and Layth Carpenter, showed up to hear the VP’s pitch. Members of the Associated Press interviewed both, and some would say the results were inconclusive. The students thought she seemed “authentic” and “relatable.” But when push came to shove, the indifference mattered: Neither would commit to the ticket or party registration, saying, “We don’t even feel like it’s something that we need to choose.”
Carpenter said she “danced around” questions and blamed everything on Congress.
Another issue with the young voters is that they are prone to stay home on election day. Harris will entice the kids with her witty phrasing of messages: “I like to say, I eat ‘no’ for breakfast,” she said. “I don’t hear ‘no.’”
Witticisms aside, Kamala Harris is not an asset to the current administration’s goals. She is the most unpopular vice president ever since polling was a thing. Harris’ favorable rating in a recent Economist/YouGov poll was 39% of registered voters. The unfavorable rating is 55%. Combine those dreadful numbers with Joe Biden’s latest approval ratings, and that does not add up to a 2024 win. A new Reuters/Ipsos poll showed the president hovering once again in the basement close to the historic low of 36% he garnered in mid-2022.
Biden and the Trump campaign are courting the youth vote in strategically different approaches. Harris is dispatched as a young version of the ticket to engage and connect to the crowds. Trump has no emissary to fill in – instead, he does what Trump does: Read the room and react accordingly. On his latest trip to Iowa, number 45 attended the Iowa State football against the University of Iowa. The stadium responded as if it were a typical Trump rally. Before the game, he appeared at a tailgate party, tossing autographed footballs into a cheering crowd during a cookout at Alpha Gamma Rho, an agricultural studies fraternity.
Harris and the Former VPs
Kamala’s numbers are lower than her four immediate predecessors at this point in their terms, former VPs Mike Pence, Joe Biden, Dick Cheney, and Al Gore. But do kids pay attention or care? Campaigning for the ticket – no matter the expert level of consultants – takes keen insight and dead-on timing. It’s not as much a learned skill as an innate sense of time and place. Harris is nothing if not awkward in her attempts to dazzle and connect, but maybe the liberal arts student will find a kinship.
Her parting message delivered campus after campus is simple: “And so, just stay active. Because I and your country are counting on you.” We’ll find out soon enough if she should’ve smoked weed and tossed a football around with the young’uns to get those registration numbers to soar.