When Mitch Case began his undergraduate studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, he was surprised to learn the college Democratic club had all but disappeared — just two years after Barack Obama was elected president with overwhelming support from students.
"It sort of faded out after the election," said Case, who is 23.
And so Case set out to revive the club, and enthusiasm on campus for Obama's reelection with it. When he graduated in December, the group's meetings were regularly drawing crowds and speakers, including the director of Obama's campaign in Maryland.
Young voters were a key demographic for the 2008 Obama campaign, which relied heavily on social networking to get its message across. Two-thirds of voters under 30 backed Obama in 2008, making the disparity between young voters and other age groups more lopsided than any time since exit polling began in 1972, according to the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.
Building enthusiasm this year, Case acknowledged, will not come as naturally as it did then. But, he said, it can be done.
"Turnout is going to be a lot lower than what it was in 2008 but I think we're still going to see groups like young people and minorities come out for Obama," he said. "It's difficult to keep the momentum from four years ago going, especially when the Congress has been working against him."
The Ellicott City native is attending his first national political convention this week as a delegate. He watched the 2008 convention on television and was "glued to it every night." He has been blogging and tweeting his experiences from Charlotte.
Republicans note that young people, particularly recent college graduates, have been hit hard by the economy. Case, who has a degree in media and communications, quickly landed a job with a Baltimore nonprofit.
"I was extremely lucky," Case said. "Everyone knows a few people who are still looking."