John McCain hopes to convince a majority of people under 30 years old that he's the best presidential candidate for them. So far, it's not going well. Recent polls show Barack Obama with a lead of at least 20 percentage points.
"John McCain sees young voters as a competitive demographic this year," said McCain youth outreach spokesman Joe Pounder, "and we're going to go after them."
To do that, the McCain campaign says it will focus on his legacy as a war hero, plus appearances on late night television shows — including Saturday Night Live — and town hall meetings around the country. He also has an army of thousands of young volunteers, thanks to Young Republican and College Republican clubs around the country connecting with peers over the phone and through canvas drives.
Those campaign methods look pretty traditional next to Obama's presence on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. McCain has said he's still learning how to sign onto the Internet himself.
Whether McCain can attract more young voters before November will have consequences well beyond this election. A new generation of people under 30 are just getting their political legs and likely won't settle in with a party until after a couple of elections.
"If the current polls hold up and young people vote overwhelmingly Democratic, the Republicans will still be paying a price for that in 25 years," said Peter Levine, director of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE).