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Republicans Seeking More Young Voters

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has drawn wide support from college students and other youthful voters, many of whom have volunteered for his campaign. But Republicans, now holding their convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, are also trying to attract young voters. VOA's Greg Flakus went to a Republican youth rally in the neighboring city of Minneapolis and filed this report.

At a rally with members of the Young Republicans from around the country at the Minneapolis Hard Rock Cafe, former presidential candidate and Governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee addressed the importance of attracting young voters to the Republican presidential ticket this year. He called candidate John McCain a man of character and a model for all Americans, and he hailed his chosen running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, as a champion of reform and an opponent of abortion.

Huckabee referred to Hurricane Gustav battering the Gulf Coast, in emphasizing the importance of human life.

"Whether it is a life in the womb or whether it is a life on the Gulf coast that is being threatened by a natural disaster, we as a society and as a civilization separate ourselves from the rest of the world in our commitment to human life," said Mike Huckabee.

Huckabee told reporters that his party will work to attract youthful voters because they represent the future of the party and the country.

"Obviously, the youth vote is the critical vote, because they are the ones most affected by how this thing turns out, far more so than people my age," he said. "I think a lot of them understand that , they get it, and they need somebody who is not so much young, but who understands the future of this country and that is why John McCain is the best pick."

Among the youthful members of the audience at the Hard Rock Cafe gathering was Luke Orlando from Manville, Texas. He cannot vote since he is only 14-years-old, but he plans to work for the party as a volunteer. Although his state is a pretty safe bet for John McCain, he says there are other races that are also important.

"We have to remember that Republicans are not just competing in the presidential election, we have statewide elections, which are very important, especially for our senator, Senator John Cornyn, and I will be supporting his efforts," said Luke Orlando.

Political analysts say Republicans are not likely to match the appeal to youth that Barack Obama has generated. The Democrat is expected to win around 60 percent of the vote in the 18-30-year-old age category. But he is not the only candidate who has excited interest among young voters. There is also Dr. Ron Paul, a physician and congressman from a South Texas district, who failed to even come close to winning the Republican nomination this year, but still holds sway over millions of supporters, many of them younger than 30.

Paul is holding a rally at the Target Center auditorium in Minneapolis Tuesday, and 17-year-old Kevin Duewel from Sacramento, California plans to be there.

"Doctor Paul cured my apathy," said Kevin Duewel. "I was feeling disenfranchised not only by the Democratic Party, but more specifically by the Republican Party. When I found Dr Paul, I suddenly realized he was different from the other bunch of politicians."

Duewel says Ron Paul represents libertarian ideals of small government and non-intervention in foreign affairs that appeal to many young people. But, he says, the people who rally behind Paul support his ideals, not necessarily his failed candidacy.

"It is not him, it's the movement, and that is the use of him holding a rally tomorrow, the Campaign for Liberty, that is what it is for," he said. "It is not to put Ron Paul in the presidency, we are quite aware that he is not going to get the nomination."

Duewel says he hopes the limited government movement will gain force in the years ahead and take hold among both Democrats and Republicans.