POLITICS

The Plan To Get Young Voters Excited About Joe Biden Is Surprisingly Simple

NextGen America plans to spend $11 million on ads pointing out basic policy differences between Biden and Trump.
Presidential candidate Joe Biden takes selfies with supporters at a March 2 rally at Texas Southern University in Houston.
Presidential candidate Joe Biden takes selfies with supporters at a March 2 rally at Texas Southern University in Houston.

A super PAC funded by one of the Democratic Party’s largest donors is reserving $11 million worth of digital advertising space targeting young voters, hoping that simply pointing them to the basic policy differences between former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump will increase their enthusiasm to vote in November. 

NextGen America, which is funded by former presidential candidate and billionaire investor Tom Steyer, will officially endorse Biden on Wednesday and has reserved the digital ad buy to reach voters younger than 35. The group’s decision to back Biden isn’t surprising; it had already announced plans to spend more than $40 million targeting Trump and key Republican-held Senate seats this year.

The message NextGen is deploying, however, is surprisingly simple. The best way to get young voters eager to pull the lever for a 77-year-old they overwhelmingly rejected in favor of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) during the presidential primaries is to point out his agreement with them on a host of issues. The ads don’t make grandiose arguments about how Biden will unite the country but instead argue he’s the best bet for progress on issues younger adults care about. 

NextGen’s research into young voter opinions about Biden found many knew little about the former vice president, especially those whose political awakening post-dated former President Barack Obama’s successful 2008 campaign. Some were unaware of Biden’s stances on issues such as gun control, immigration and health care, and saw him as little more than another career politician.

The goal of the advertising is to remind liberal-leaning young people that one of the two old men vying for the presidency agrees with them on the issues a lot more than the other does. One of NextGen’s first ads is design to rebut the idea that there is little difference between Biden and Trump, comparing and contrasting Biden’s pledge to expand health care coverage with Trump’s support for repealing Obamacare; and Biden’s support for clean energy with Trump’s backing of “unchecked pollution,” among other issues. 

“We can have a president who wants 100% clean energy, student debt forgiveness and an assault weapons ban, or we can have a white supremacist who tells Americans to drink bleach,” said Ben Wessel, the group’s executive director. “This election is about young Americans and our future, and the choice for us is clear: Joe Biden is the best candidate for president.”

Another ad similarly paints Biden’s election as simply a part of the solution rather than a revolutionary act. “Our generation deserves better, and Joe Biden can help us get there,” the ad’s narrator says. “We know the fight for progress won’t stop after Election Day, but there are enough of us to start making progress again.” 

The ads will start running on June 1 in the presidential battleground states of Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and North Carolina. NextGen has purchased advertising space on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Pandora and Steam.

The super PAC has also hired 150 organizers spread across 11 battleground states and is also aiming to register tens of thousands of young voters in 2020. They also created a simple fact sheet they plan to digitally pass out to voters at online organizing events, aiming to answer questions about Biden’s and Trump’s records. 

NextGen’s announcement comes one day after the Biden campaign unveiled a new youth outreach effort, dubbed “League 46.” That effort, led by Biden senior adviser Symone Sanders, includes an expansion of an existing Students for Biden group, along with the launch of groups of young professionals for Biden and young elected officials for Biden.

Polling shows Biden leading Trump by significant margins among young people, both nationally and in key swing states. But top Democratic operatives have long worried about young people’s relative lack of enthusiasm to actually cast a ballot in 2020 and fear it could prove politically deadly in a close race. 

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