College Students Are A Key Focus For Candidates Hoping For A Narrow Victory In Iowa

For Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, a key step in winning the Iowa primary is getting college kids out to caucus.

This year is the first time public colleges in Iowa will be in session during the caucuses in two presidential cycles, which means there’s a big, concentrated pool of students who are potential caucus goers, including some out-of-state students who qualify to register.

With Sanders hoping to pull off a narrow victory Monday in the Hawkeye State, getting these students out to caucus for him could be a make it or break it moment.

On the Republican side, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul also has had a steady ground game trying to engage students and get them out to caucus.

According to Cliff Maloney, Paul’s national youth director, the campaign has 25 Students for Rand chapters throughout Iowa that are “executing a full-throttle student get out the vote operation to capitalize on all of the ground work we have done since April.” The campaign has a goal of turning out 10,000 students the night of the caucuses to support Paul.

“It’s really hard to get 10,000 students out there,” said Ford O’Connell, former John McCain adviser and veteran campaign strategist. “We are looking at maybe 133,000 people turning out to the caucus. But if you are asking kids 18-to-24 to sit through a long night to caucus, 10,000 is a lot; you aren’t asking for that from people in New Hampshire, who just pull a lever. It’s asking a lot of commitment and students might not have the patience.”

Read more from Miranda Green at Scripps Media

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Analysis & Political Strategy