GOP candidate appeals to young voters

by Kristin Gustafson

DES MOINES, Iowa — Despite his last-place standing in the polls, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, continued a slow and methodical fight for the GOP nomination for presidential candidate.
During talk shows, phone banks and face-to-face voter interviews, Hatch delivered his message at a calm, carefully measured pace. He asked voters for support and tirelessly tried to convince people that he is the most experienced and “common- sensed” conservative vying for the Republican nomination.
To many, his bid was a long shot, but Hatch appeared unfazed.
Hatch’s visibility has been hindered by his late entry into the race and an inability to afford major advertising. His only televised advertisement in Iowa was an infomercial aired twice following the Jan. 15 Republican debate.
For 28 minutes he looked directly into the camera and spoke frankly about the Clinton administration’s broken promises, questionable fund raising and botched investigations. His deliberate pace, lacking in sound bytes, didn’t fit the usual slick political ad.
The 65-year-old Hatch describes his low-budget approach to both marketing and fund-raising as an “ordinary people’s campaign.” His $50,000 expenditure for four half-hour broadcasts, two in Iowa and two in New Hampshire, pales in comparison with the $1.5 million the Republican and Democratic front-runners each spent in Iowa alone.
Despite his stripped-down campaign style and conscious effort not to run a typical sound-byte campaign, Hatch said he hopes his message resonates with voters who are ready for truth and moral leadership.
The infomercial gave a critical account of President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore’s last seven years in office. Hatch’s message stressed that political leaders have an obligation to be accountable to the people they govern, said Darlene Duncan, a Hatch supporter from Des Moines.
But Hatch’s words had little impact in Iowa because he possesses neither a personal fortune nor the Republican party’s support. His “skinny cat” campaign bid for money — Hatch’s request for $36 contributions from a million voters — is a slow and laborious fund-raising tactic.
Younger voters, some believe, could be the 23-year senator’s saving grace.
“I don’t want the $1,000 donors and the media and the Republican establishment telling me who the nominee will be,” said Jim Camp, 35, Hatch’s national political director. On Saturday, Camp appealed to the “youthful rebellious nature” of Youth Vote 2000 participants in Iowa City. Camp hoped young voters would boost Hatch from his projected sixth-place finish on caucus night.
The political director outlined several Hatch positions appealing to young voters.
Hatch supports school financing and loans for higher education. Although Hatch generally advocates less government, his advisers say the candidate believes higher education is one place where legislation can help people. Advisers believe Hatch’s experience working as a janitor to put himself through college, and as a laborer to pay for law school, puts him in touch with the realities of students.
Hatch hopes to score some pocketbook appeal with his proposed permanent ban on Internet taxation, a measure that would serve young people, the newest and biggest players in this technology arena, Camp said.
Furthermore, Hatch’s promise to protect Social Security would preserve the money invested by today’s young people for retirement, Camp said.
In addition to his youth-oriented policies, Hatch has another message to get across: “I think it’s so important to face up to the facts about corruption and corrosion in our political system so we can move on to the future,” Hatch said. He wants a more moral approach to government — one based on his civic, family and faith beliefs and experience.
Though Hatch’s bid is “a very, very long shot,” success might be measured by a few percentage points gained rather than a win, said Arthur Sanders, an associate professor of political science at Drake University.
Sanders is quick to point out that more than half the nation’s voters are undecided, some of whom Hatch could win over with subjects other candidates aren’t touching.
For example, alleged corruption in the Clinton administration was not being addressed before Hatch addressed it, said Hatch spokeswoman Margarita Tapia. Now, she said, “some of the other candidates are talking about it, and that’s important.”

Kristin Gustafson welcomes comments at [email protected]