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Millennials are up for grabs

Brandon Helderop

Election Day was a big day for Republicans as voters across the country enthusiastically turned out, handing them the majority in the U.S. Senate and adding to their majority in the U.S. House. In addition, the GOP came close to sweeping all gubernatorial races where they had incumbents and elected governors in traditionally Democratic states like Illinois, Massachusetts and Maryland.

One of the underlying threads for Republican success was the noticeable advancement made within the 18- to 29-year-old millennial bloc. The results from Tuesday’s election should cause worry for Democrats who have had a tight grip on this segment of voters for quite some time. In 2008, over half of the group turned out to vote with almost 70 percent supporting President Barack Obama. In 2012, Democrats captured 60 percent of the 18-29 vote.

Both sides jockeyed especially hard for the bloc’s support during this election. The GOP dedicated more resources than ever to youth outreach by stepping up their ground game on college campuses as well as implementing targeted advertising. Conversely, Democrats attempted to build on the Obama administration’s approach of bringing in celebrities to help push their agenda.

While Republicans didn’t completely tip the scale, they have to feel good about the results. For instance, in the Iowa Senate race, considered one of the closest races in the country, NBC exit poll data showed that the Republican candidate Joni Ernst only narrowly lost the 18-29 vote with 45 percent compared to her Democrat opponent, Bruce Braley, who picked up 51 percent.

In the Iowa gubernatorial race, Republican and incumbent Terry Branstad topped his Democrat challenger Jack Hatch by winning the youth vote 54 percent to 41 percent.

Here in Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder only narrowly lost the 18-29 vote by 2 points to Mark Schauer, 50 percent to 48 percent. However, the governor did win the 25-29 age group, 50 percent to 48 percent.

These types of gains were seen in various races across the country. While this has to encourage Republicans, there is still much work to do. A majority of millennials still support Democrats but election results indicate that the gap is closing. The GOP is beginning to connect with a growing number of 18-29 year old voters.

Neither party can afford to take the millennial vote for granted. To win their vote, candidates will need to communicate to them on issues they care about such as high youth unemployment, fostering an entrepreneurial environment, and education.

Brandon Helderop is a New Hudson-based freelance writer who is active in the Republican Party.