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Obama Courts Young Voters through MTV - But Will it Matter?


President Obama hosts a town-hall Thursday aimed at young Americans that is airing on MTV, BET and CMT. While he's trying to bring back the momentum that got him elected two years ago, he isn't on the ballot - one reason why enthusiasm is down compared to 2008.'s Christine Delargy spoke with MTV's Sway Calloway, co-host of "A Conversation with President Obama," and asked what issues came up most often from submitted questions.

"Young people have tremendous concerns about the status of this country," Sway said. "We put a call out to our audience to find out what they're most concerned. The job market, the economy, education, all these issues are important."

BET's April Woodard, who's also co-hosting the town-hall, told Delargy the president must generate momentum with young people if Democrats want to stem expected losses on November, 2nd.

"Right now there's an 'enthusiasm gap' so [President Obama] wants to get them back in and realize that these midterm elections are really crucial and almost as crucial as the presidential election," Woodard said.

That "enthusiasm gap" according to Woodard might be too wide for the President to narrow, "I can't say that I am confident. I think maybe he'll change a few minds and hopefully we'll change a few minds too. Because it's everyone's duty, they're civic duty to go out and vote."

Asked if it was a smart move for Mr. Obama to hold a youth town-hall with less than three weeks before the election, Sway responded, "I think it's a smart move for any sitting president to talk to his constituents. In his case, you have in '08, you had the largest turnout for young voters in his history. Arguably they're the ones that put him in office."

Vote Again 2010's Sara Halie-Mariam and Aaron Smith joined CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer on Thursday's Washington Unplugged as well. Halie-Mariam told Schieffer, "Young voters change the world. Fundamentally we've realized is that if you target young voters they do turn out."

Smith said their goal is to get the word out to young people that this year's elections are just as important as 2008.

"The message we're trying to get out there is there's a tremendous amount at stake and therefore you really do need to be involved in this election," said Smith.

When Schieffer asked what issues were important, Smith told him, "Jobs is definitely number one for young people. Young people are struggling, like all Americans. Frankly we think that health care, the economy and jobs are inter-related."

Following today's youth-town hall and Tuesday's town hall at George Washington University, Mr. Obama will continue his final pitch to young Americans. Noted CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller: "On Sunday, President Obama and the First Lady will be doing their first joint campaign appearance since the presidential election when they go to Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, reaching out to students there."

Sway said if the president is going to reach out to young people, the time is now.

"I think it's time to hear from our president as much as we possible can and this is the perfect platform to do it," he said. "It's something we've done since 2000, it's in our DNA at MTV, it's not just about reality show."

"Washington Unplugged,"'s exclusive daily politics Webshow, appears live on each weekday at 2:00 p.m. ET. Click here to check out previous episodes.

Lauren Seifert
Lauren Seifert is an associate producer for You can read more of her posts here. For more Washington Unplugged, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
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