Biden leans on young voters to flip North Carolina

North Carolina Democratic Party Chair Anderson Clayton, 26, is the youngest state party chair in the country — and she’s taken on the job of campaigning for the oldest presidential candidate in history in a state that hasn’t been won by a Democrat since 2008.

“It’s going to be a fight,” Clayton said. “I don’t think, right now, anybody actually knows what is going to happen in November.”

Clayton, who often passes for a college student when she’s out canvassing, thinks that her youth has been an advantage in trying to register students at Appalachian State University, her alma mater. 

“[Students] respond best when they have someone that looks like them, talking to them about the issues that are important to them, too,” Clayton said.

North Carolina becomes a battleground

Though Donald Trump won North Carolina twice, 2020 was his narrowest victory in any state. He beat Joe Biden by 1.4 points, or around 75,000 votes.

Seeing it as Mr. Biden’s best pickup opportunity, the Biden campaign began targeting general election voters in the Tar Heel State during the primary with a $25 million TV ad campaign in seven battleground states that included North Carolina.

Anderson Clayton. CBS Saturday Morning

Building a student coalition

Clayton has been a key player in outreach to young voters, Biden officials said.

“Every person that’s leading a canvas right now in North Carolina is a young person,” Clayton said. “Folks out there out on the doors right now in North Carolina are young people.

In March, Clayton joined Vice President Kamala Harris in a “Students for Biden” coalition launch event in Durham. They helped train young North Carolinians on political organizing and Clayton says the state party is developing a pipeline that would hire eligible students for the campaign after they graduate

“We want local North Carolina youth out there organizing for this campaign this year, because we fundamentally think that this is the way forward in our state,” she said.

Tarak Duggal, a senior at Wake Forest University, was one of the event’s participants.

Biden to campaign in North Carolina, a state he lost to Trump in 2020 03:09

“It is inspiring and helpful to see that, you know, the campaign is taking us seriously and is listening to us and understands how important of a voting bloc that young people are,” Duggal told CBS News.

Appalachian State is one of 16 institutions in the University of North Carolina network. The state is also home to about a dozen historically Black colleges. The Biden campaign believes the many HBCUs provide the perfect infrastructure to support their  youth outreach strategy. The team is planning to open 11 North Carolina field offices this cycle that will include staffing focused on turning out campuses across the state.

The North Carolina Republican Party indicated it doesn’t see the Biden campaign’s effort as much of a threat. A spokesperson told CBS News the group does not plan to expand their operations, touting its current relationship with the RNC and Donald Trump as sufficient in winning in November. 

“We have paid staffers and volunteer-powered field programs in every battleground state, including North Carolina, and they are expanding daily,” Trump campaign spokesperson Karoline Leavitt said in a statement. 

President Biden Speaks At The United Steel Workers Headquarters In Pittsburgh, Pennslyvania
President Joe Biden speaks on April 17, 2024 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Jeff Swensen / Getty Images

Biden losing steam with young people

Turnout among young voters is historically low, and Biden’s support with young voters is shrinking.  

In 2020, North Carolina’s Board of Elections reported 18-25 year olds made up just 13% of registered voters, and 60% of them actually voted.

According to a recent CBS News poll, the president’s approval rating has dipped to 43% among people under 30. Left-leaning young voters told CBS News Mr. Biden’s age and handling of the Israel-Gaza conflict are top concerns for them.

“Usually, I wouldn’t care that much, but now they’re both, like, kind of senile, like decaying on stage when they give their speeches,” said Jacob Cook, 18, a student at Appalachian State. “So it’s a pretty big factor this year.”

“I thought it would be the easiest choice in the world between Biden over Trump,” said student Elijah Bozorth, 19. “But, Biden’s decisions in office are, I guess, complacent since the situation with Gaza. He has really lost my vote.”

Clayton, however, believes the majority of young Democrats will back Mr. Biden in November.

“Young people aren’t stupid,” Clayton said. “We know what a future under Donald Trump looks like for us and what a future under Joe Biden looks like for us.”

Original CBS News Link</a