Can Bernie Sanders help Clinton win over Ohio Millennials?

This weekend, Sen. Bernie Sanders embarks on a campus tour of Ohio. As Hillary Clinton struggles to win support in the swing state, Mr. Sanders aims to show Millennials that Mrs. Clinton can be their candidate.

Jacquelyn Martin/ AP
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., left, greets Jasilyn Charger, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Youth Council, after Charger spoke to a group of supporters of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe who were rallying in opposition of the Dakota Access oil pipeline, during a rally by the White House, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016, in Washington. Sanders also spoke at the rally. Senator Sanders plans to visit Ohio this weekend to stump for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

There’s no two ways about it: Millennials love Bernie Sanders. Unfortunately for the Hillary Clinton campaign, they’re not so keen on the Democratic presidential nominee. This weekend, Senator Sanders heads to Ohio to get voters fired up about Mrs. Clinton.

In a June study, 54 percent of Millennials saw the Vermont senator favorably. That compares to 37 percent for Clinton, and just 17 percent for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. In the Ohio Democratic primary, CNN exit polling showed Mr. Sanders winning 81 percent of the Millennial vote.

Now, the Clinton campaign hopes to use Sanders' star power among Millennials to get younger voters – who are historically underrepresented at the polls – to turn out in swing states. Sanders and fellow progressive Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) of Massachusetts will be spending the weekend on a campus tour of Ohio. For the Millennials he’s hoping to sway, how effective of a Clinton surrogate is Sanders?

Sanders, who endorsed Clinton back in July, emphasizes the contrast between Clinton and Mr. Trump. "If you go through the issues – raising the minimum wage, pay equity, family leave, making public colleges and universities tuition free, climate change – on all of those issues and many, many others, clearly Hillary Clinton is far and away the superior candidate," he told USA Today in an interview.

Not everyone is on board with this perspective. At the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Sanders was booed by some of his former supporters when he told them, "We must elect Hillary Clinton." Others were demonstrating against the Democratic nominee outside the building, and a few even got themselves arrested in protest against Hillary’s nomination. 

"Hillary is everything we stand against. How I could I vote for her?" Steven Grumbine, of Harrisburg, Penn., told The Christian Science Monitor in April. The hashtag #BernieorBust is now used both by voters who still can’t stand Hillary Clinton and those calling for unity against Donald Trump.

Ohio Millennials clearly prefer Clinton to Trump. Three in five have a "strongly unfavorable" view of the Republican candidate. But many Millennials still plan not to support Clinton, often because they don't trust her, veteran Democratic strategist Tad Devine told Bloomberg. 

Last week, a Quinnipiac University poll found that almost one-quarter of the state's voters were undecided or intended to vote for a third-party candidate, most likely Gary Johnson or Jill Stein. Among Millennials nationwide, that figure goes up to 44 percent.

Support for third-party candidates tends to go down as elections get closer. That doesn't help Clinton, however – if Millennials stay home in November, Trump could carry the state by mobilizing his core constituencies there. 

At this point, the Clinton campaign believes, winning Ohio hinges on the ground game: registering voters and inspiring them to go to the polls come Election Day. Sanders is one of a number of Clinton surrogates who will tell voters that their support matters and encourage them to turn out for Clinton.

The ground game is equally important to Clinton in other swing states, including Pennsylvania, where she herself will visit Philadelphia on Monday.

For Sanders, success in Ohio this weekend hinges on showing younger voters that Clinton can be their candidate, just as he was.

The campaign's website, which describes the Saturday event to be held in Kent, Ohio, doesn't disguise the intent of Sanders' visit: "he will lay out the stakes of November's election for millennial voters ... [and] emphasize Hillary's plans to make free community college and debt-free college available to all Americans."

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