October 28th, 2012
02:51 PM ET
5 years ago

Battleground Blog: Virginia students engaged and informed

EDITOR'S NOTE: CNN has sent dozens of reporters, producers, contributors and correspondents to the key battleground states to cover the final days of the 2012 election. Here is a report from John Avlon, CNN contributor and senior political columnist for Newsweek and The Daily Beast. It's his take on a student town hall held in Lexington, Virginia.

(CNN) - The Battleground State Bus Tour rolled into Lexington, Virginia, and sat down with twenty college students at Washington & Lee University to talk about the election.

The economy is still the number one issue for these students, but surprisingly it isn't just about finding a job after graduation. The vast majority of students in this center-right group cared most about the generational theft of the deficit and the debt.

"My opinion is the older folks didn't do their job. They didn't manage the economy," said Josh Laguerre. "They just spent, spent, spent. They didn't plan for us and now we have to clean up the mess that they've made."

Obama has lost ground with these students, including former supporters who are now undecided or leaning towards Romney.

"I agree with the president on social issues. I really do, and I think a lot of us are free-thinking in that way. But it's kind of gotten to the point where it's like triage. It's, like, okay, the economy's most important to me," said Caitlin Tyree. "In 2008 I supported the president. I even worked for grassroots organizations and I was all about him. In this election it's kind of just been like a bad break up between me and the president."


But while Mitt Romney had the decided edge among students in this conservative community – including one Vegan student who said the environment was her most important issue – there remain real questions about the authenticity of his recent reversion to Moderate Mitt after campaigning as a "severe conservative" for the past two years.

During the primaries, Romney "was a little bit more on the far right and a lot of us didn't really feel comfortable with that," said JJ Feinauer, who is still undecided. "His recent shift to the center I think has healed some of those wounds, but it's also a little bit more bittersweet." But an additional concern is about how a President Romney would deal with a right wing dominated Congress. "If he becomes the president it's just going to be unleashing the beast on a lot of the things during the primary that came out," continued Feinaiuer. "That make a lot of us very nervous about a shift in the direction in the country that we don't really want."

This group of students has little love for the policies of the past Bush administration, even as they feel that President Obama hasn't brought the change they'd hoped for. Interestingly, many of the students agreed that Republican obstructionism in Congress was responsible for the gridlock in Washington and these young deficit hawks felt that raising a portion of deficit reduction from revenue was a necessary and acceptable tradeoff for a bipartisan deficit deal in which they agreed everything needed to be on the table. And when it came to taxes, even some Romney supporters agreed that his tax plan didn't add up.

Talking with these engaged, informed students was refreshing and a rebuke to the kind of cynical political consultants who believe policy isn't important in presidential campaigns. These students have done their homework and they care passionately about the future of our country. And that's good news for whichever candidate wins this election.

Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney • President Obama • Virginia
soundoff (47 Responses)
  1. Larry L

    Students are able to understand the trajectory and momentum of the deep recession and the difficulty of recovery – especially in the face of Republican obstructionism. They understand economics well enough to comprehend the consequences of doing nothing – the Republican plan and a path Romney recommended when the crisis began.

    Romney gives no specifics for his economic plans – just fluffy promises which are never backed-up by actual math. Romney is a more dishonest version of Bush. Fact checkers constantly prove him to be a pathological liar. His trickle-down economics is just Bush 2.0 – a gift to the ultra-wealthy.

    October 28, 2012 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  2. Ron L- Mich

    How does ANYONE believe a person wwho was MODERATE five years ago. Slowing "BECAME" a conservative to SEVERE Repiblican, and now has became a MODERATE again in the last 2 weeks. This is the CRITICAL problem with pure Democrats and pure Republicans, you are willing to vote someone in office you don't even trust as long as they claim the are of your party. It's SAD and SICKENING!! Who are you electing Moderate or Severe Mitt, does it even matter??Remeber if he wins because of his COMPLETE lack of backbone he will side with the most extreme parts of the Republican party which means those Americans that are poor and struggling INCLUDING STUDENTS are going to see their plight worsen..JUST WATCH....

    October 28, 2012 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  3. 2020

    You want change? real change?

    Re-elect President Obama, vote out GOP for house and senate.

    Then, you will see the the fiscal cliff level off, cit deficit in balance mode of 4T, job creation by means of tax incentives to business creating job at home, energy development will go into overdrive, and you kids, study hard, study smart. you don't have to worry about job or future, just like we did in the 70s and 80s.

    This is a generational change era. Our last 30 years was from great to dicimal. It is your choice to make this change by your vote.

    your destiny is in your hand. Vote Obama!!!

    October 28, 2012 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  4. DENNA

    Go ahead and vote GOP. However, before you do, honestly examine the policies of the previous administration. That is why we are where we are. Two wars, borrowing from China, tax breaks. I'm no mensa candidate, but the math just does not add up. Romney WILL raise taxes if the country is to survive. Unlike President Obama, Romney's tax increases will all on the middle class and the elderly. Also, if you graduate with a mountain of school debt, remember, you accured this debt so don't whine and blame your elders. This is your debt and voting Republican will not make it go away.

    October 28, 2012 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  5. 22

    .The students aren't sure which Romney they're getting,the moderate or the severely conservative,they're not sure of how he's going to restrain a right wing dominated congress which would unleash another Bush era that would take the country in the direction "we don't really want".They don't think Romney 's economic math adds up yet they backing Romney?"They've done thir homework"Seriuosly?

    October 28, 2012 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  6. PAUL

    See, even young republicans are seeing through Romney's lies! Even though the president has not totally accomplished everything h'es promised, he's done quite a lot in a short space of time with an obstructionist Republican Congress!!

    October 28, 2012 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  7. James d

    We cant pay for social issues if everyone in the economy is broke....

    October 28, 2012 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  8. Jeetu.

    While I agree with these students and applaud their efforts, as a teacher, I must say that their homework is incomplete. They ought to realize that in order to reduce the deficit and make the economy grow faster, we do need to repair our damaged infrastructure: roads, birdges, etc. and also must invest in education and clean energy. Further, they would have thought of our standing in tge global world. They must also consider the impact of 40+ million people mot having health isurance. Haw can we prosper and make ourselves better withour a holistic and systems view of the issues involved. Bad economy and deficit are the results of bad planning and polices of more than a decade and they cannot be fixed in a short peiod of time. These students ought to factor in and take a long-term view points without which we lost our edge in manufacturing.

    Thus, while I thank the students for thinking, I will suggest them to think and crtiicall evauate their questions, answers and the postions each of the candidate holds. Then, they may find that Obama's aproach may be closer to their viewpoints than Romney's. However, they have to do this homework, no one can do it for them.

    All I cna suggest is that a vote for Obama is a vote for long-term thinking and a balanced approach to deficit reduction and economic growth. That is why I am voting for Obama and the democrats for house and senate seats

    October 28, 2012 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  9. migeli

    There's something strange about this Romney guy!

    October 28, 2012 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  10. JD Anthony

    Go Obama! I'm in Virginia and I've produced a dance-able campaign song and video for the President's re-election. Listen and give it a "Like" - Search Jonthony on Facebook, or Jonthonymusic on Youtube

    October 28, 2012 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  11. n

    Eyes wide shut, where were these "me, myself and I" when the republican leadership pledge to hold america hostage to ensure this president fails? That is what's wrong with america, we just stand around and watch the brutality of our own hypocrisy while blaming the guy who tried to champion on our behalf. An now we abandon ship in the middle of the ocean of recovery for a smaller boat built only for the 1%.

    October 28, 2012 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  12. 2012liberal

    So r u waiting 4. Romney has done nothing but lied at every turn. How can u trust that? Every point u young adults say 'makes u nervous.' U should b. Really leaning romney? So u r willing 2 take yr chances w bush again. U will get what u asked 4 then. Unfortanately u will inflict that horror on me and the rest of our country and world!

    October 28, 2012 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  13. cosmo

    Vote straight Democrat on Election Day to assure of the country of moving forward. One has to be blind and totally without a clue to vote for Romney and Ryan.

    October 28, 2012 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  14. Neil

    its nice to see some considered opinions on this post... as someone who cannot vote in the US election but believe that whoever is President of the US affects the global economy and safety of the world I really hope that more people really do their homework and judge what is really happening. I think there have been too many soundbites on both sides but I think that is more that the Democrats finally wont allow the Republicans to say anything they like and feel they can get away with it. Whilst I dont advocate the rhetoric I feel that there is only one party which is looking at the long-term and for all the people and only one President who is respected around the world...
    Lets hope that Obama gets to have the second term and also that the Republicans work across the aisle to actually achieve something rather than postulate and say their only goal is to get Obama out !

    October 28, 2012 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  15. Rick McDaniel

    Let's be realistic........students are totally naive, and buy into pure rhetoric, with absolutely NO substance. That's the only reason students follow Obama.

    The truly INFORMED students will all go Romney, because they want a JOB when they graduate, and not promises!

    October 28, 2012 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  16. Jeanne

    So come on Virginia show me a sign
    Send up a signal I'll throw you a line
    That stained glass curtain you're hiding behind
    Never lets in the sun

    October 28, 2012 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  17. Milton K. Wiah

    The students do not say anything at all. The author of this article made it up. Because if they really understand what this
    election is about then we expect them to say something tangible. Number one they talked about republican
    obstruction, two Bush reckless policy and three Romney tax does not add up. But they are undecided.
    Do they know what is tax. Tax is an engine of every economy, without it or depend on how you go about it the economy
    will suffer. Bush cut taxes and did not know to pay for it, destroyed the economy now the president is fixing.
    So if you believe that Romney tax plan does not add up but then you plan to vote for him then you are not making
    any good argument. Of course I believe that the author of this article was really in conservative community.

    October 28, 2012 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  18. GI Joe

    If she's so smart, how is she going to pop a baby out every year and have a career? How can anybody have a real life and be forced to give up birthcontrol (it will be a murder you know if you have an IUd or take the moning after pill). She's not as smart as she thinks she is. Kids cost about $250,000 K-12 and that's before the republicans make all schools private and they have to pay about $10,000 per year to keep one in school. Multiply that by 2 or 3 or 6 or or or ......................

    October 28, 2012 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  19. GI Joe

    Obama/Biden 2012

    Or females lose all rights to private healthcare for the rest of their lives. The republicans will be in the doctor's office, in your bedroom, in evrything you do. Grow up.

    October 28, 2012 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  20. melsystech

    Republican obstructionism in Congress was responsible for the gridlock in Washington and Romney is going to be stuck too. Obama second term will move things forward with or without Republican support yes you heard me

    October 28, 2012 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  21. Larry L

    1. Mitt Romney is constantly shown by the fact checkers to be a pathological liar – as clearly stated by Newt Gingrich.
    2. He flip-flopped on every issue including abortion, gun control, healthcare, taxes, Medicare, his proposals for war, women's rights, immigration, and education.
    3. His career at Bain Capital was about vulture capitalism – not about building stronger companies and more jobs.
    4. He's polling about 20% in Massachusetts where he was Governor and they really know him – and his poor jobs record.
    5. He's still hiding his tax returns.
    6. His money is still offshore to avoid paying a fair level of taxes and keep it "safe".
    7. He considers 47% of Americans who couldn't pay taxes "not worth worrying about" – including disabled veterans.
    8. He was a draft dodger spending 31 months languishing on the beaches in France while the rest of us fought and died in Vietnam – now he talks like a tough Warrior.
    9. Romney refuses to give any specifics to prove his wild claims and promises – the math absolutely doesn't work.
    10. He's invested millions in companies who encourage outsourcing manufacturing to China.
    11. He said we don't need any more teachers and a class size of 50 could be fine – his kids went to private schools.
    12. He invented Obamacare and but now pretends his new idea is different – the provisions are the same except Romney won't explain how he'd pay for the coverage – and again... the math doesn't work.

    October 28, 2012 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  22. Chris in NY

    This people aren't real Obama supporters. They are emotionally unstable. Or may be they are core members of the microwave generation. Those who think Rome was built in a day without any difficulty. This guy inherited a mess and has managed to drag out us out of it without any single help from Republicans. And you want to reward bad behavior with good? Go figure what is wrong with some people.

    October 28, 2012 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  23. Thomas

    Most younger Republicans that I have talked with don't trust Romney.

    Hey people GW Bush isn't coming back and that's what Romney is all about , Bringing back the bad GW BUSH era of insanity and instability.

    Men like Romney thrive on instability , it's extremly profitable for the few at the top..

    October 28, 2012 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  24. Pete

    I just hope these college students realize what Romneys trying to do to these same students if he's elected.Raising interest on Pell Grants or eliminating it and generally squeezing the students money out of them not helping to lower tuition rates on some colleges that'll agree with Pres.Obama to make it easier for their educations.Romneys the one that said to go ask your family for 20 grand like its petty cash,that's your out of touch candidate republicans and aren't college students people too!!

    October 28, 2012 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  25. Antony Williams

    I think obama. Would win .

    October 28, 2012 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
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