'People our age should be looking at the opportunity these candidates are presenting to them,' young campaign volunteer tells MTV News. By Gil Kaufman, with reporting by Sway Calloway
Rick SantorumPhoto: Justin Sullivan/ Getty Images
MANCHESTER, New Hampshire — Rick Santorum almost pulled off a Hail Mary win at the Iowa caucus last week. But it will take a Tim Tebow-like feat of daring to do the same at the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday (January 10) in a state where independent voters rule and even dedicated Republicans don't always fall in step with the party line.
That fact was on display last week when the former Pennsylvania senator was heckled at a forum with college students over his stance against gay marriage, which is legal in New Hampshire.
Asked if she thought it hurt him, "I do," said Michelle Gearrity, a Quinnipiac University student who has been in the state for the past week working as a volunteer on the Santorum campaign along with her friend Jordanne Anderson. "I think the youth are stuck right now on a lot of social issues, but for me personally I think everyone has to look at the big issue now, which is the economy, jobs. Everyone's affected: your neighbors, your brothers, your parents, your grandparents. We're college students. I'm graduating in a year, it's in the back of my mind constantly."
Anderson, 19, and Gearrity — who were both at the college convention in Concord, New Hampshire, where Santorum was booed — said they believe the candidate has the best economic plan to bring the country out of the recession and they are focused on that, not the divisive social issues that typically pop up in general elections.
Standing outside Jillian's Billiards Club in downtown Manchester on Monday night as Santorum spoke to his constituents inside, Gearrity said that to woo voters her age, he needs to look them in the eye and explain how his Made in America plan to bring more manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. could help them apply their technical skills as they graduate college.
"We need to step back and bring back jobs to America that we're sending ashore," she said. "People our age should be looking at the opportunity these candidates are presenting to them."
With Santorum idling in third place in most polls leading up to Tuesday's vote, Anderson said the pair have not been working on getting out the vote so much as making calls to rally the candidate's faithful. "We actually are having a real lot of positive feedback, [but] we are noticing it's not as much youth, which we'd like to push more on the youth," she said in a nod to the fact that Santorum has had a hard time so far breaking through to the 45 million voters age 18-29. "It seems that Ron Paul has really sucked in that campaign this year. We have had a lot of youth interest, so we're trying to push it more."
MTV's Power of 12 has been talking to young voters in New Hampshire this week, and they've confirmed that Paul has continued to speak to that group with his message of smaller government and less regulation.
But if Santorum is to have any chance of another surprisingly strong showing before he moves onto more-welcoming territory in upcoming Southern primaries in South Carolina and Florida, high school senior Amanda Biundo said he'll need to figure out a way to break through to people her age. "If you look at Iowa, every single vote counts," she said of the inaugural contest where Santorum lost to Mitt Romney by just eight votes. "You just have to let them know that their vote counts and this is a chance for them to show that they do have an importance and that their opinion does matter to this country."
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