If there’s one thing that’s certain, it’s that primary voters aren’t yet ready to decide on a Republican candidate for the 2012 presidential election. Despite Mitt Romney’s considerable lead at the beginning of last week, Newt Gingrich pulled off an upset over the weekend in the South Carolina primary, taking 40 percent of the vote over Romney’s 27 percent.
While Republicans wrestle with choosing a nominee as they head into next week’s Florida primary, President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign is gaining momentum. On Thursday, in addition to raising $1.6 million for his campaign, Obama captured widespread attention when he busted out his singing chops with Rev. Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” at a fundraiser event at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.
When MTV News spoke to people in Times Square about the president’s musical interlude, the consensus was that his vocals scored a passing grade. “It sounded really good, it’s one of my favorite songs,” Felicia Bullinger, 20, said.
Even an “American Idol” producer weighed in , telling MTV News that the commander in chief could pass an “Idol” audition and make it through to Hollywood Week.
Obama’s voice wasn’t the only thing that won people over. His softer side resonated with 18-year-old student Tonya Deodath. “I think he’s always serious so I think it’s kind of good that he’s being a little personal with everybody. It doesn’t hurt to be silly sometimes.”
Jamie Dahlquist, 24, agreed. “I think it’s fun to show the real human side of himself. It’s a good way to get the young people on his side.”
A human side could ultimately help translate into more votes. “Seeing how it’s time for re-election, if he’s going to get more votes, you have to get personal with the people you’re trying to win over,” Deodath said.
With 45 million Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 eligible to vote in this year’s election, the power of young voters is hard to ignore, especially after the support he received from 2008’s record youth turnout.
Of course, gaining popularity will take more than singing at $200-per-ticket fundraisers as voters have mixed reactions to the president’s time in office and weighed in with their advice for his campaign.
“He shouldn’t make so many promises because as much as someone wants to change the world, they’re not going to be able to promise everything,” Victoria Lavista, 18, said. “I think he did that last time and there’s a lot of promises he didn’t follow up on.”
One issue that seems to top the list of issues for young Americans is student loan debt and jobs.
“To President Obama, I speak for students when I say this, help us out, especially parents and [those] students who want to go back to school or who are in school right now,” Deodath said. “It’s kind of hard for students to get a job and nobody’s really doing anything about that.
“And if kids are the future, we have to go to school in order to be the future.”