If the presidential campaign remains close going down the stretch, an increasingly crucial challenge for Hillary Clinton will be convincing Millennial voters who aren’t voting for Donald Trump to (a) show up at the polls and (b) vote for her rather than for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein.
There’s already plenty of speculation about how Clinton can pull this off, from getting Bernie Sanders out there campaigning for her, to running more ads with hip-hop music, to talking a lot about student-loan debt.
But if the Washington Post’s Catherine Rampell is right, Clinton’s Millennial problem may be partially self-correcting.
Several recent polls … suggest that younger voters are much more likely to see a Clinton presidency as a fait accompli. Per Quinnipiac, 71 percent of voters younger than 35 believe Clinton will win in November; just 49 percent of voters older than 65 believe the same. YouGov also finds that 58 percent of voters under 30 expect a Clinton victory, versus 47 percent of those over 65.
If you believe a Clinton presidency is inevitable, then casting a ballot for a third-party candidate probably doesn’t feel like it has much consequence. It’s a mere protest vote, a victimless expressive gesture, like angrily tweeting into the void, kneeling during the national anthem or, I don’t know, sending unhinged hate mail to unsuspecting columnists.
It is credible that the idea Trump could win — an idea which has gripped both conservative and mainstream media in recent days — may not have fully penetrated the consciousness of Millennials. They do not, after all, on average, spend a lot of time reading Politico, much less Breitbart.
But assuming the race stays close or even gets closer, this development will eventually sink in across all the usual generational barriers.
[A] tighter race — one, ironically, made tighter largely because of millennial defections from the Clinton camp — changes the calculus. It’s riskier to “throw away” your vote, either by supporting someone who has no chance of winning or by abstaining from the polls altogether.
See, millennials may not adore Clinton, but they really, really hate Trump. Six in 10 young voters view him “strongly” unfavorably, and the same share describe him as “racist.” Don’t be surprised if their third-party crushes start to fade as the prospect of President Trump begins to feel all too terrifyingly real.
Conversely, if Clinton rebuilds a sizable lead as the cycle chugs from early voting through November 8, Millennial defections won’t matter so much — except for the poor down-ballot Democrats who may find themselves left behind. Clinton can afford to shrug, at least until she begins running for reelection and has to deal with questions about her poor rapport with Millennials.