Democratic presidential nominee implores young voters to view election as binary choice on core values and inclusivity: America is better than Trump
As Hillary Clinton addressed a crowd of students gathered inside a cavernous university hall, she neither pretended to be someone they would instinctively relate to nor did she rely on pop culture references that might resonate with young voters.
Instead, the Democratic presidential nominee delivered a straight and impassioned pitch to the most racially diverse generation in US history, imploring them to fully grasp the choice before them this November.
Standing between two signs bearing the words Love trumps hate, which has emerged as a slogan for her campaign, Clinton said it was imperative for voters to send a message that America is better than Donald Trump.
We are facing a candidate with a long history of racial discrimination in his businesses, who retweets white supremacists, who led the birther movement to delegitimize our first black president, she said before the roughly 300 voters who had gathered at Temple University in Philadelphia.
We have to stand up to this hate. We cannot let it go on.
While the central themes of Clintons stump speech were mostly met with polite applause, it was the urgency of her appeal against Trumps racial divisiveness that brought the crowd to its feet. It is the hope of Clintons campaign that, in addition to her platform on issues such as college affordability, equal pay and the environment, the former secretary of state can persuade young voters to view this election as a binary choice on core values and inclusivity.
Polling has shown young voters are far more likely to reject the premise pushed in particular by Trump and the so-called alt-right conservative movement that a more racially inclusive outlook is akin to political correctness. They are also more embracing of immigrants and have been turned off by Trumps rhetoric against Latinos, Muslims and other minorities.
Even so, Clinton has struggled to capture the support of the young Americans who have reliably voted Democratic in recent cycles and helped propel Barack Obama to victory in both 2008 and 2012.
Mondays event, part of a broader effort by the Clinton campaign to target millennial voters, was an acknowledgment that Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and Green party candidate Jill Stein, who are attracting support from a third of voters under the age of 30, could imperil Clintons hold over a critical voting bloc.
Clinton made it clear she was under no illusion that young voters were entirely satisfied with her as an alternative to Trump, while nodding to her discomfort with the public part of public service.
I also know that even if you are totally opposed to Donald Trump, you still may have some questions about me. I get that, she said.
I will never be the showman my opponent is, and you know what? Thats OK with me.
She asked of them, however, to give us both a fair hearing. Hold us accountable for our ideas, both of us.
With a significant faction of young voters still up for grabs, Clintons campaign dispatched some of its most popular surrogates to woo them over the past week. First lady Michelle Obama, Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren and Clintons former primary opponent Bernie Sanders all stumped on college campuses, while the campaign and its allies launched both television and digital advertising aimed at galvanizing millennials.
Brian Fallon, a spokesman for Clinton campaign, said the campaign was aware of the task at hand. But he added that it was a distortion of the data to compare Clinton numbers among young voters with those of Obama, since the presidents support was being gauged from exit polling in other words, those who turned up to cast their ballot for his re-election as opposed to how many young voters supported him with two months still remaining.
By some measures, were ahead of where President Obama was in 2012, Fallon told the Guardian. Theres a lot of work that goes on in the last seven weeks.
Election Day is what counts, and we think well be successful among young voters. But we have to work for them.
With recent surveys showing Trump closing in on her lead, Clinton called on young voters who might be complacent or disillusioned to understand the influence of their vote.
It is going to be close. We need everyone off the sidelines, she said.
Not voting is not an option. That just plays into Trumps hands.
Rahul Ramesh, a sophomore who attended Clintons speech, referred to himself as one of the sideline voters she mentioned. But the first-time voter confessed to being moved by what he heard.
After today, its changed my perspective and I think it might make me go vote for Hillary, Ramesh said. Seeing how grounded she was was the most impressive thing to me.
Trump is more of a celebrity seeking the limelight. Trump would definitely ruin the public image of America and America wont be seen as that country that everyone yearns to come to.
Ariel Epstein, a sophomore at the nearby University of Pennsylvania, did not require convincing. Having already cast her vote for Clinton in the primary, she came away instead with a renewed purpose of mobilizing her friends and classmates to register to vote.
Im definitely worried because a lot of people our age are Bernie-or-busters, she said, citing the Vermont senators overwhelming support among young voters during the Democratic primary.
Being here today made me more determined. You can just see the divide between her and Trump its ridiculous that theyre even being considered on the same playing field.
Invoking her own story from when she was in college, Clinton recalled grappling with the same frustration toward the political system during the Vietnam war.
It can be tempting to think that no one will tell you the truth and nothings ever going to change, she told those who might be skeptical of a seasoned politician such as herself. But youre here today because you refuse to accept cynicism. You know that the next 50 days will shape the next 50 years.