Menu

Politics

Jon Stewart and President Obama and the Enthusiasm Gap: A Match Made in DC

President Obama will be reaching out to the 18-29 year olds again on Wednesday night when he appears on "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart, but while the president contends there's no "enthusiasm gap" for these voters in this election, his actions might suggest otherwise.

Obama has been traveling around the country for the past month - focusing his efforts at large universities and DNC rallies aimed at the 18-29 year old voter - those who turned out in droves for him in 2008 but who are showing little to no interest in the 2010 campaign season. The president has also done some televised town halls - like the one earlier this month in Washington, D.C. that aired on MTV, CMT and BET. But, "The Daily Show" is a whole different ball game.

Stewart's show is known for mocking and making news - and in the past polls have shown that many younger voters watch "The Daily Show" as their daily news - rather than a traditional evening newscast. However, if the president is hopeful the audience will favor him, experts don't agree. "Jon Stewart's show is a conduit to that age group, for sure, but I'm not sure an appearance is somehow going to magically spur 18-29 years olds to cast a ballot. While Stewart may urge them to vote at his joint rally with Colbert this weekend, I work on a college campus, and I can tell that the temperature is quite low for political activism this year," says Larry Sabato of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

While the White House in general, and the president and vice president specifically, have shot down the idea of the enthusiasm gap, it's a reality that is hanging over the mid-term elections. Michael Franc, of the Heritage Foundation says the administration is trying to appeal to the "sense of rebelliousness" of the 18-29 year old voters by creating a type of bogey-man - in the appearance of Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie and the no-name money donations Obama has criticized. But Franc says, don't expect to hear a lot of specifics on Wednesday night on Comedy Central. "I don't think he can get into specifics. He has to stay at the inspirational and level of vagueness and go back to language of 2008," Franc said to Fox News. "They haven't really made a compelling case for how their policies will enhance prospects for upward mobility. And it's hard to see where he can point to specific agenda items that allow him to make that case with specifics."

Stewart, who is in Washington all week to prepare for his "Rally to Restore Sanity" on the National Mall on Saturday, has had presidential candidates and a variety of politicos on his show before and experts say an appearance on "The Daily Show" could boost Obama personally but will probably not make a difference at the polls. "Obama's image has deteriorated dramatically over the past several months. Showing up on Jon Stewart, bantering with America's favorite fake newscaster-host, improves his image. It helps him with the press," says Professor Tobe Berkovitz of Boston University's School of Journalism. "He's going to get tons of favorable media coverage most likely, but If it helps Obama get any votes I seriously doubt it."