Clinton Courts Millennials on Campaign Trail

     PHILADELPHIA (CN) — With millennials billed as one of November’s most crucial voting blocs, Hillary Clinton pulled out all the stops to entice young voters at a Monday campaign rally in Pennsylvania.
     Addressing a crowd made up mostly of students, Clinton spoke in earnest tones about social equality, climate change and the economic outlook for college graduates — all topics she deemed among the most important for a demographic she has reportedly struggled to win over.
     The former senator currently holds a very slim lead over Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson among 18 to 34-year-olds, according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll. A reported 31 percent of voters polled said they were leaning towards Clinton, while 29 percent preferred Johnson. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump nipped right at their heels with the support of an estimated 26 percent of young voters, the poll said.
     Clinton attempted to widen this gap Monday, imploring young attendees to “help us stand up for our best values and reject prejudice and paranoia” and aiming to convince them she had their best interests at heart.
     “If I’m in the White House, young people will always have a seat at [my] table,” she said.
     Clinton seemed almost soft-spoken and understated as she took the stage on the same Temple University campus where she gave her first speech after being crowned the Democratic presidential nominee in July.
     In contrast to the rousing vehemence of past campaign events, Clinton spoke candidly and quietly about her background and personal character, emphasizing her commitments to social justice and to “even[ing] the odds for those who have the odds stacked against them.”
     “When it comes to public service, the service part is easier for me than the public part,” she admitted, perhaps making an attempt to erase frequent pictures painted of her during the Democratic primary as corporate and elitist.
     She kept the speech personal throughout, telling the rapt audience about various people she’d met along her political career who she said had “set me on the course of activism and social justice.”
     One such woman was the daughter of the principal of Sandy Hook Elementary School, who had been gunned down along with 20 children in a December 2012 shooting rampage.
     Clinton described how she had responded to her mother’s death not with bitterness, but by becoming an activist against gun violence.
     “That’s what makes this country great,” Clinton said. “We might get knocked down, but we get right back up again. We refuse to quit no matter what. That’s the spirit we need in this election too.”
     The former secretary of state minced no words in courting the group whose support was a key factor in President Barack Obama winning the White House in 2008 and 2012.
     “I need you as partners,” she said. “The next 50 days dictate the next 50 years.”
     Clinton’s tone grew more emphatic and forceful as she rallied attendees for their votes based on their shared values of equality, progressiveness and activism.
     “If you believe that we should finally guarantee equal pay for women, join us,” she exclaimed. “If you believe that climate change is real and we can save the planet by creating millions of energy jobs — join us!”
     The speech also zeroed in on other hot topics for millennials, such as rising tuition costs, mounting student-loan debt and skyrocketing costs of living, all crucial for a young audience “trying to find [its] footing” in the worst economy since the Great Depression, the former senator said.
     The crowd voiced its approval when Clinton brought up her recent alliance with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to ensure free college tuition for working families and guarantee a debt-free education for all Americans.
     Amid talk of policy change, the Democratic nominee also took some time to lay into her Republican opponent, attacking Trump’s “paranoia,” “history of racial discrimination,” and bluster on the campaign trail.
     Clinton called the election “a choice between two very different visions for America,” urging her audience to choose “answers, not anger; ideas, not insults; bridges, not walls.”
     “Our most cherished values are at stake….We have to stand up to this hate,” she said, eliciting the longest and loudest cheer of the afternoon by the otherwise composed crowd.
     Again speaking candidly, she also made a play for the support of the numerous millennial voters who are said to be undecided or pessimistic about the choice between herself and Trump.
     “Even if you’re totally opposed to Donald Trump, you may still have some questions about me,” the former senator said, vowing that she would do her best to answer her critics.
     Clinton added, “Here is what I ask any voter that is still undecided. Hold us accountable for our ideals — both of us. I can’t promise you’ll always agree with me, but I promise you this: no one will work harder [for you].”
     Audience members Emily McKain and Megan Platte, both 19-year-old Temple students, appreciated the combination of optimism and openness struck by the presidential hopeful.
     McKain and Platte called the speech “a breath of fresh air,” saying Clinton’s words perfectly captured the “unique voice” of their generation and inspired them to be “trailblazer[s]” in their own right.
     “My heart is racing…just the energy and excitement,” McKain said.
     Platte added, “Not voting is not an option,” echoing a rallying statement made by Clinton during her speech.
     
     Photo credit: Matt Rourke/Associated Press.

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