Youth voters rally around Carson

A Ben Carson rally featuring a cover band playing Johnny Cash and audience members wearing AARP shirts might seem like an unlikely place to find youth voters. But the Republican candidate drew support from voters of all ages, including many millennials, for a campaign rally Saturday evening in West Des Moines, Iowa.

Carson emphasized leadership, faith and unity during his rally, and also discussed the importance of improving the country for the benefit of future generations.

Joey Grewell, 25, a Carson campaign volunteer and Montana native, says he was not a very politically active until he was moved by Carson’s speech at the White House Prayer Breakfast during May, which inspired him to get involved. He says he thinks many of his fellow volunteers are also new to the political scene, and attributes this influx of young volunteers to Carson’s narrative and status as a candidate who is relatively new to the political realm himself.

“The man has a way of drawing people who are not part of the political establishment because he is an anti-establishment candidate,” Grewell says. “I think that’s very appealing to people because they’re tired of politics as usual.”

Grewell says he thinks Carson’s message is particularly appealing to millennials because they realize they need to work to improve their own future.

“My generation knows we can’t continue on this path of [debt],” Grewell says. “I think that narrative that he’s trying to help younger generations with what they’ve been left with is very appealing to my generation too.”

The crowd at Carson's Jan. 30 rally in West Des Moines. Jonah McKeown/TMN Digital
The crowd at Carson’s Jan. 30 rally in West Des Moines. Jonah McKeown/TMN Digital

Brandon McKibben and Phillip Peterson, both 20, are students from Des Moines Community College who attended the rally together. They say they plan to caucus for Carson.

Peterson says they considered candidates from both parties before deciding to support Carson. He says Carson’s ideals align with his own for almost every issue.

Peterson and McKibben say many of their fellow college students are not supporting Carson. McKibben says part of the reason is because people do not think Carson has enough political experience.

“Then they’ll go on the opposite side of that and say, ‘We need to not have a career politician in office,’” McKibben says. “I look at them and shake my head. You can have it one way or the other. I prefer [the President] not to be a career politician.

McKibben says even though Carson does not have much political experience, he does have experiencing managing teams, which will allow him to effectively serve as president.

Another Carson supporter, 27-year-old college student Joe McAuliff, says he liked the candidate since Carson announced he was running. McAuliff says he supports Carson because he is pro-life, Christian and has a strong economic plan.

McAuliff says from his perspective, many of his peers are Carson supporters. He says he predicts Carson will do well during Monday’s caucus.

“I think young people should vote for Carson because he brings real solutions to the issues,” McAuliff says. “He brings wisdom to his ideologies.”

Ben Carson (left) poses for a photo with a young fan. Jonah McKeown/TMN Digital
Ben Carson (left) poses for a photo with a young fan. Jonah McKeown/TMN Digital

One group attending the Carson rally was about 30 high school students from Cincinnati. The students are attending multiple political rallies in Iowa as part of a government class. Noah Oseor, 18, says for many of his fellow students, Carson might not be their favorite candidate, but he is among their top choices. Oseor says he likes the Republican because Carson does not speak badly of other candidates, but says he does not think Carson’s stance on foreign policy is very well developed.

Another one of the high school students, 17-year-old Nathaniel Hawkins, says while many of his peers are Republicans, young voters are often undecided about who to vote for and are not committed to voting for Carson. However, he says it is important for young people to vote, regardless of who they are voting for.

“There are too many people that sit out, but this election in particular is directly affecting our future,” Hawkins said. “Whoever is elected is going to have a say over what our college careers are like and how much national debt we’re going to have. Ultimately, it’s our future, so we should have a say in it.”

For more coverage of youth voters, check out student’s perspectives of Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, and Hillary Clinton rallies.

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