When David Plouffe speaks about campaign strategy it’s time to listen. He’s the brains behind Barack Obama’s come-from-nowhere takedown of Sen. Hillary Clinton in the Democrat primary and relatively easy victory over Sen. John McCain in the presidential race. To accomplish those feats he upended conventional campaign strategy and built a future-ready political infrastructure that was years ahead of its time.
So when Plouffe says that Clinton has a “huge problem” among Millennials, it means something is going very, very wrong for the Democrat candidate.
“The best way to get a Millennial – and listen, there’s a bunch of 18, 19, 20 years olds that didn’t vote for Barack Obama because they weren’t eligible. You’ve got to have a human being talk to them,” Plouffe said on Bloomberg. “They’re not just going to do it because they see an ad.”
“It’s not a crisis,” Plouffe concluded, “but it’s a huge problem.”
Just how big is Clinton’s issue with millennials? A recent Quinnipiac poll found that just 31 percent of likely voters between the ages of 18 and 34 support Clinton. Notably, 29 percent said they supported the libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson and 26 percent said they supported Donald Trump. Similarly, a Bloomberg poll released this week shows Clinton lead among voters under 35 is down to just 4 points — 40 percent to 36 percent — against Trump. And finally, a NBC/WSJ poll from last week found that Clinton’s margin among young voters over Trump is just 12 points in a four-way race.
All of those numbers represent an incredible free-fall from the 66 percent of young voters that supported Barack Obama in 2008 and the 60 percent who supported him in 2012.
But Clinton’s problem isn’t so much that she’s far behind where she needs to be, it’s that she’s incapable of making up the gap. As Plouffe said, the best way to “get a Millennial” is to “have a human being talk to them,” and right now young adults don’t want to listen to Hillary Clinton.
Part of the reason is a lack of trust. A recent George Washington University Battleground poll found that just 22 percent of voters between the ages of 18 and 34 believe that Clinton “says what she believes” and only 38 percent believe she is “honest and trustworthy.” No matter how many ideas Clinton has, or how impressive her resume is, young voters won’t bother listening if they don’t feel like they can trust the words coming out of her mouth. And how can they? Her history of flip-flopping, chasing the poll winds, and lying when the going gets tough represents a legacy that will be difficult to separate herself from.
Worse, it’s not altogether clear that Clinton even wants to change. Jordan Chariton writes for CNBC:
The biggest danger for Hillary Clinton is her own success: with the pundit class declaring her victorious, and the potential of her seeing a small bump in national polls, Clinton might wrongly think she can just keep on keeping with her string of empty platitudes and poll-tested answers for just about everything.
But the core reason Rust Belt and blue-collar workers are fleeing to Trump is the inherent lack of authenticity Clinton exudes; a problem 20 years in the making.
Laid off factory workers; workers logging 60 hours between two or three jobs; students with hundreds of thousands in college debt don’t feel a basic connection when Clinton speaks to them.
Rather than fix the problem by speaking earnestly, Clinton has instead enlisted the help of Bernie Sanders, hoping that his voice will continue to resonate with disaffected youth. At nearly every campaign stop, Clinton trots out Sanders to unconvincing tell the young adults in the audience that she is not the candidate that Sanders made her out to be in the primary – one who was bought and paid for by Wall Street.
It doesn’t appear to be working.
A recent analysis by Project New America found that in a number of key battleground states, the number of voters who back Sanders, but would not support Clinton, represent a larger portion of the electorate than than which decided the 2012 presidential race.
As Plouffe would say, that may not be a crisis, but it’s a huge problem. And one that Clinton may not be capable of fixing.