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Why the Youth Vote Went for Obama

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(Los Angeles, California)

I have been writing a series of vignettes on some of the people I met and spoke with in Los Angeles.

Jenny Tsai is 30, Asian-American, and works for a corporation in Santa Monica. To her the economic downturn and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan weighed heavily this year. “I think, more than anything, I just wanted a change,” Tsai said. “All the people in my age demographic felt the same way about Obama.”

Some of the exit polling fleshed that out. People from age 18 to 29 voted almost exclusively for Obama. He took 72 percent of the youngest demographic, compared to 28 percent for John McCain. In fact, the only age group McCain won Tuesday was among people age 65 and older.

Obama communicated well with people via the internet. I received daily dispatches from his campaign and on some days multiple e-mails. He also got dialed into Bill and Hillary Clinton’s email list after she lost the nomination. The Internet phase of Obama’s campaign will serve as a case study. By comparison, the McCain campaign sent me just one e-mail in the past month. Republicans need to ramp up their high-tech pitches. They got out-hustled online.

It goes without saying that Obama’s speaking style really appealed to young and especially to first-time voters. Critics worry Obama may turn out to be style over substance - a good speaker, but not a leader. We’ll find out soon if idealism outweighs reality, or not!

Until then, many of Obama's young voters remain optimistic. “It’s exciting,” said Tsai.... “There’s a lot to look forward to.”

I understand some of my Los Angeles broadcasts are now posted on the web site for KTLA-TV5. Search for them at www.ktla.com.

I have a lot more election blogs coming soon. Check in often at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

A Different Kind of Change

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(Hollywood, California)

“It’s the economy, stupid!” That was the mantra Bill Clinton rode into the White House in 1992. Most U.S. Presidential elections feature the economy as the top issue, and this one was no different. In one exit poll, 62 percent said the economy was the top issue. The Iraq War came in second at just 10 percent.

That brings me to a young homeless man I met on Hollywood Boulevard on Election Day. Gregory Klaeboe, age 28, is an unemployed tourism worker. I have crisscrossed the country with the candidates most of this year, but Klaeboe had the most unusual election-related sign I have seen: “Obama Ain’t the Only One Who Wants Change!”

Truth be told, Klaeboe’s sign was more about panhandling, and less about an endorsement. Still, he would rather be back working in the tourist trade. “The jobs that I’m interested in are like promoting tourism at kiosks,” Klaeboe said. “The less people go on vacation, the less money I make.” Klaeboe worked as a “pedicab driver” in New York, which is a fancy way to say he drove a bicycle taxi. He was laid off in the economic downturn.

Young people in Klaeboe’s age demographic were the key to this year’s election. Some exit polls indicate that 75 percent of voters age 18 to 29 voted for Obama.

Pollster Frank Luntz also reports that for the first time ever this age group used the Internet as its primary source of news and information, not TV, radio or newspapers. Obama used that to his advantage over McCain. Klaeboe agreed, saying, “I think that Obama has made it important for young people to realize the importance of their vote.”

The economy aside, Iraq was the second biggest issue. “I do think that McCain is more like Bush. I thing he’s more of a war type guy,” Klaeboe said.

Klaeboe is hoping the economy bounces back soon and saw some mixed signals before leaving New York. “Yes, of course the tourism from Europe has gone up,” he said. “But the tourism from within the U.S. has gone down,” he added pessimistically.

Indeed all Americans are waiting for the economy to bounce back. For most, the big question is not if, but when.

I will have more post-election blogs, including reactions from inside the Obama rally in Los Angeles last night. Check in often at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

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