Young, Old Voters Face Off for 2012 Election

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LEESBURG Va. -- As the Democratic and Republican national conventions draw near, both presidential campaigns are going all in for voters.

So far, the 2012 race for the White House appears to be mainly focused on age.

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Battle of the Generations

Under Virginia's hot summer sun, Arlen Thaler's t-shirt makes it clear she's "got Obama's back." As a new high school graduate, she believes her future will be brighter if the president gets four more years.

"While we may be younger and less experienced, I really think that I see what needs to be done more than what older people do," Thaler told CBN News.

Young people enthusiastically supported President Obama in 2008, and it looks like they're lining up behind him again.

"And if you believe in me like I believe in you, I'm asking you to stand with me," Obama urged young voters at a recent rally.

America's political divide can be drawn pretty much between young and old.

Among Millennials, voters under 30, the margin is almost double for Obama, while 61 percent to just 33 percent for GOP presumptive nominee Mitt Romney.

But plug in voters 65 and older, and the numbers are nearly reversed, with Romney leading Obama 51 to 43 percent.

Different Priorities

The two age demographics also have different priorities. Seniors want a president who will reduce corruption and overcome political gridlock in Washington.

"My policies will work and I know that because they've worked in the past," Romney told supporters in Colorado.

Romney supporter Bill Harrison expressed confidence that the former Massachusetts governor would be the best choice to lead the country.

"He knows what he's doing," Harrison said. "He's got some experience. He's got political experience. He's got business experience. He's just got real world experience."

"He hasn't lived in some ivory tower and he didn't vote present anytime he had the opportunity," he added.

Younger voters, however, care about improving public schools, making college affordable, and protecting the environment

"He's relatable," Obama supporter Lauren Roy said. "He's down to earth. He seems like an average guy that you can go up to, approachable. Mitt Romney, not so much, kind of stiff, you know, not very approachable."

Bucking the Stereotypes

But some supporters like 18-year-old Romney volunteer Grayson Westmoreland break the stereotype.

"Well, I get a lot of criticism for it, but I know it's the right choice, and I actually run into quite a few Romney supporters that are young as well," Westmoreland said. "It's unpopular, but it has to be done to save the nation's future."

But the older voters, like Carole Gathright, admit they're the engine behind the GOP. Gathright never volunteered before this election. She realized she can't complain if she's not willing to roll up her sleeves.

"I'm 67 years old. And when I think of my children, my grandchildren, and my great grandchild, their future scares me," Gathright said.

It's a battle of the generations that's shaping the candidates' messages and attacks as they work to chip away at each other's core support.

"They want to pry off support for Romney by focusing on the things that the government does for people who are older," Georgetown University's Mark Rom explained.

"Romney's strategy is for the youth is to say, 'Look, Obama and the Democrats are saddling your generation with huge amounts of federal debt.' You're going have to pay for that."

Ultimately, elections come down to numbers. Historically older voters cast ballots in the highest numbers. Younger voters aren't as reliable.

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Jennifer Wishon

Jennifer Wishon

CBN News White House Correspondent

Jennifer Wishon is the White House correspondent for CBN News based in the network’s Washington, D.C. Bureau.  Before taking over the White House beat, Jennifer covered Capitol Hill and other national news, from the economy to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Follow Jennifer on Twitter @JenniferWishon and "like" her at Facebook.com/JennWishon.