Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

1 positively attracts; negative 1 may repel

Citizen Staff Writer

University of Arizona students and other young voters across the country stand ready to make history.

Their votes, along with the vicious attack ads of Sen. John McCain, well may cement a Democratic victory Nov. 4.

“Everywhere you go (at the UA), there are a ton of people walking around with Obama T-shirts, lapel stickers, you name it,” says James J. Jefferies IV, president of the UA Young Democrats.

Such visible support of Sen. Barack Obama is mirrored on many campuses, with Liberty University in Virginia serving as a notable exception.

There, Jerry Falwell Jr. is canceling classes on Election Day to bus his overwhelmingly Republican students to the polls, clearly an effort to push the state McCain’s way.

McCain will do quite well at UA, too, says Ry Ellison, president of UA College Republicans.

“We’ve had outstanding turnout at our meetings,” Ellison says. “And we can’t keep enough McCain-Palin bumper stickers.”

Among new young voters, including about 3,000 recently registered in a drive at UA, the majority this year have been Democratic.

“Historically, young people have tremendously undervoted, not because they’re lazy or don’t care, but because politicians didn’t speak to them about their issues,” notes former Tucson Mayor Tom Volgy, Ph.D., political science professor and executive director of the UA International Studies Association.

“Obama all of a sudden started speaking to them, and they responded very strongly.”

It’s not only what Obama says, but how he says it.

His campaign’s masterful use of technology – by Internet, text-messaging and online and telephone videos, for example – has been widely noted.

Now add the first-ever television station for a candidate (with the exception of Fox News for Bush/McCain, of course).

The Barack Obama Channel – which appeared as Channel 73 last week on Dish Network – broadcasts the candidate outlining his economic plan and ideas for health care reform along with his life story.

Such smart use of technology is appealing to today’s high-tech young adults, who surely also are attracted by Obama’s own youthful energy and interest in issues that affect them.

Perhaps most effective about this campaign, though, is its truly grass-roots approach.

Rather than telling people what to think, the Obama campaign has asked voters for ideas and used those insights. Such give and take may be unprecedented in U.S. politics.

No wonder the McCain campaign is concerned. If current polls are any indication, the Republican camp has reason to worry.

In unleashing negative attack ads, though, the McCain campaign may be making a major misstep.

The more negative the campaigns turn, the lower the voter turnout, Volgy notes.

“One of the primary functions of negative campaigning is to lower turnout,” he says. “So the nastier the campaigns get, the more people stay away.

“Democrats are going to have to walk this really tricky line between needing to respond and not going so negative that more and more people get turned off.”

Even negative campaigning may be unable to quell the enthusiasm and excitement among Obama supporters – including new voters, young voters, minority voters and all of us who have had it with the status quo.

Ultimately, by resorting to negative campaigning and smear tactics, the hopes and dreams that McCain destroys just may turn out to be his own.

Reach Billie Stanton at 573-4664 or bstanton@tucsoncitizen.com.

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