August 28th, 2012
05:25 PM ET
Fort Collins, Colorado (CNN) – Kicking off a three-state tour of college towns on Tuesday, even as Republicans hold their convention, President Obama told students in Iowa that his rivals are actively trying to keep young voters home come Election Day.
“Last week my opponent's campaign went so far as to write you off as a lost generation. That's you, according to them,” Obama told a crowd that numbered 6,000 at Iowa State, his first of two stops Tuesday. “What they hope is that by telling you these things you'll get discouraged and you'll just stay home this time. But you can't - you can't believe it”
The push for younger voters has become a key strategy of the Obama campaign, which overwhelmingly won those under the age of 30 in 2008 by a margin of 66-32 percent, according to exit polling.
“As tough as times have been, you're tougher,” Obama also said. “I've seen your passion, I've seen your service, I've seen your generation eager and impatient to make a difference. And already you've proved that you can.”
The Obama Campaign notes more than 15 million young people have become eligible to vote since 2008. But many of these new voters came of age not during the “Hope and Change” era of the president’s first campaign, but during the prolonged recession and bleak employment outlook that has followed.
Still, Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki insists that “young people are going to come out and support President Obama because he’s taken action important to their generation.”
But the Romney campaign too is pushing for the youth vote, arguing the president’s policies have caused college costs to skyrocket while making it more difficult for recent high school and college graduates to find a job.
“After nearly four years in office, the President has left young Americans facing higher unemployment, mounting debt, rising costs, and fewer opportunities in the Obama economy. They deserve better,” campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said.
Obama next heads to Fort Collins, Colorado, where he is expected to make similar remarks on the campus at Colorado State. On Wednesday, he heads to Charlottesville, Virginia, for a rally just outside the gates of UVA, the University of Virgina.
The two-day swing is largely intended to steal some of the media spotlight away from the Republican National Convention, which kicked off Tuesday. In his remarks in Iowa, the president said he expects the event to be a “pretty entertaining show.”
“I'm sure they'll, you know, have some wonderful things to say about me,” he joked.