The Youth Vote and Presidential Politics


Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page weighs in on President Obama's most recent effort to capture the youth vote by appearing on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. Page says it's a good move as Obama works to rekindle the "Yes, we can" enthusiasm among young voters from 2008.


President Barack Obama "slow-jams the news?" Is this a nakedly bold pitch for the youth vote or what?

I'm talking about the president's appearance Tuesday night on "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon." In front of a live audience at the University of North Carolina, the nation's commander in chief took charge in "slow-jamming the news," an occasional feature on the late-night talk show.

It consists of reciting some news of the day with anchorman seriousness while backup singers and The Roots, Fallon's house band, lay down some smooth jazz in the background, punctuated with appropriate repetitions of "baby."

The stunt posed a risk, even to Obama's famously cool stagecraft. Many a middle-ager has bombed with lame attempts to sound cool in front of their children and other young 'uns. As a parent, I speak from hard-learned experience. But I can get away with it. It is part of my unwritten job description as a parent to embarrass my kid from time to time. Politicians in public aren't that lucky.

Obama wisely stuck to a familiar script. Speaking to his collegiate audience, he filled his slow jam with applause lines from his campus stump speeches in Iowa, Colorado and North Carolina — three states that he won in 2008, but appear to be up for grabs now.

Read Clarence Page's entire column at the Chicago Tribune.