Millennials may be notorious for their low voter turnout, but they have growing political clout. This November, they'll rival baby boomers in terms of their sheer number of eligible voters. And that means they could be key deciders in battleground states. Theoretically, that ought to benefit a Democrat. But during the primaries, young voters were Hillary Clinton's Achilles' heel. Now Clinton is hoping they'll give her a second chance.
The reason millennials are so important to Clinton's strategy is that she is trying to rebuild the Obama coalition of voters — people of color, women and millennials. During the primary season, she did well with the first two groups mentioned — women and minorities — but young voters overwhelmingly chose her opponent Bernie Sanders.
Millennials are the largest and most diverse generation to date. More than 40 percent identify as people of color; and about one-third are parents.
The Clinton campaign is trying to reach all corners of this generation with a strategy that includes both college and noncollege voters.
"Ninety percent of babies that were born last year were born to millennials," said Sarah Audelo, the campaign's millennial vote director. "A lot of what we're doing is thinking about how we're going to reach millennial parents ... looking at issues like child care."
Clinton also recently penned an essay in Teen Vogue, made a pitch to a millennial-owned business in Iowa, and praised apprenticeships in Nevada. Her campaign is flooding college campuses with organizers and volunteers.
"It's not so much about persuasion, it's really — this election is much more about mobilizing," said Spencer Carnes, who heads campus outreach efforts for the Colorado Democratic Party's coordinated campaign.
Carnes spent his final semester of senior year of college working for the Sanders campaign, but now he is traveling to college campuses across Colorado with a mission to get Clinton into the White House.
"It really wasn't a matter of switching from Sen. Sanders to Secretary Clinton; it was a matter of being a Democrat," said Carnes, standing outside the main student center at the University of Colorado, Boulder, sporting a pair of flip-flops and wire-rimmed sunglasses. "I've been a Democrat since 2004, when I was in fifth grade."
Carnes credits John Kerry for that political awakening.
But he realizes not all Sanders supporters see this election through his lens.
"There are some individuals who ... feel disenfranchised," said Carnes. "What we're doing in order to engage those individuals is showing them the Democratic Party is what you make it — that if you want it to be a party that's representational of you, then you need to participate in it."
Carnes insists the most effective way to engage college students is through one-on-one conversations. And, as new students move into dorms, he's on campus to ensure they also register to vote.
Turnout will be key, according to Andrew Baumann, a senior researcher with the Global Strategy Group and a Democratic pollster who surveyed young voters in battleground states this past July.
"Millennials absolutely disdain Donald Trump," he said. "But they don't love Secretary Clinton either."
And that apathy could be troublesome.
"They're not gonna vote for Trump. That's not the question. The question is — if they're gonna vote for a third-party candidate or stay home. And Secretary Clinton really needs to work to make sure that doesn't happen."
Baumann says it's not enough to merely "hate Trump" — that won't mobilize a disaffected Sanders voter to cast a ballot for Clinton.
The type of person he is describing is Misty Plowright. She's a 33-year-old IT consultant. Plowright is a Democrat, a Sanders fan, and one of the first openly transgender people running for Congress. But she is also a Clinton skeptic who is considering a vote for Jill Stein — the Green Party nominee.
"They talk about trying to court us, but it comes across as just lip service," said Plowright. "Look at her VP pick. I mean, [Tim] Kaine? Are you kidding?" she asked, incredulously. Many progressives criticized Clinton for choosing a relatively moderate vice presidential candidate.
But as she knocks Clinton's "conservatism," Plowright also worries that Trump is a man willing to shred the Constitution. And, so she is torn.
"I think there's one way where stop Trump at all costs would get me to vote for Clinton and that's if I actually truly believed that Trump was Hitler 2.0 and he was actually going to do that level of evil. If I believed that, yeah, I'd vote for Clinton," she said.
But Plowright points to Congress and says she doubts Trump will carry out his plans, even if he is elected; and so for now, she says, she has "no idea" what she's going to do in November.