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Presidential hopefuls join AP, MTV, MySpace to talk youth issues
Clinton 2008 CAEA12 5910227
Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., speaks during a fundraising event in San Francisco Friday, Feb. 1, 2008. - photo by Associated Press
    NEW YORK — Many of their parents are younger than Hillary Rodham Clinton and some of their grandparents are younger than John McCain.
    Most can’t remember a president that wasn’t a Bush or a Clinton. And even Barack Obama, the youngest 2008 presidential candidate at age 46, is twice as old as today’s teenage and early-20s voters.
    Ah, youth.
    Despite their advanced age, four presidential hopefuls — two Democrats and two Republicans — have agreed to participate Saturday in ‘‘Closing Arguments: A Presidential Super Dialogue,’’ a last chance for the candidates to make their case to the energized youth voting bloc before Super Tuesday, when 24 states hold nomination contests.
    The event — sponsored by The Associated Press, MTV and MySpace — airs live on MTV and more than 1,800 Web sites and radio stations at 6 p.m. EST.
    The candidates will join the 90-minute event via satellite: Clinton from Tucson, Ariz., and Obama from Minneapolis, Minn., on the Democratic side; Mike Huckabee from Alabama and Ron Paul from Texas on the Republican side. Better-polling GOP rivals McCain and Mitt Romney declined invitations to participate.
    Questions will come from moderators in MTV’s Times Square studio and from online and in-studio participants. The format allows candidates not only to join the event from separate locations, but also at different times.
    Not surprisingly, the youngest candidate has also had the greatest success attracting youthful voters thus far. Obama, whose campaign has wrapped itself in a mantel of youth, claimed 57 percent of the vote among 17- to 29-year-olds in Iowa’s Democratic caucuses, according to exit polls. In New Hampshire, the Illinois senator won 60 percent of the 18- to 24-year-old voters, and 67 percent of the 18- to 29-year-old voters in South Carolina.
    Even so, youthful voters are a small sliver of eligible voters and have a lower rate of participation. During the 2004 presidential election, 5 in 10 members of the 18- to 24-year-old demographic did not cast a ballot, according to a U.S. Census survey. During 2002’s midterm elections, 81 percent of that group said they did not vote.
    In the last presidential election in 2004, the turnout among young voters was the highest since 1972, and represented an 11 percentage-point increase over 2000. This year, experts are watching closely to see if turnout among the 18- to 24-year-old demographics returns to the levels of the 1960s, when youth turnout was around 50 percent.
    Clinton, meanwhile, maintains leads among reliable, older voters in many of the states in which 1,681 Democratic delegates are at stake on Feb. 5.
    In their first one-on-one debate held Thursday in Los Angeles, Clinton and Obama refrained from the angry, personal jibes that have characterized the Democratic race in recent weeks. Both seemed to conclude that kind of nastiness would only hurt them as they seek to reach out to millions of new voters, including younger voters.
    Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor and Baptist pastor, has fared poorly since winning the Iowa caucuses. Paul, a previous Libertarian presidential nominee, has a strong fundraising operation online but has spent little time campaigning.

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