Here's a self-evident truth for modern-day America: In a society gaga over Netflix revivals and '90s nostalgia, there's a surefire way to secure a fickle millennial's loyalty — get Vampire Weekend back on stage.
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders obviously didn't write the Declaration of Independence, but the Vermont senator knows how to get youth to turn out. His campaign is hosting a campaign rally-cum-concert Saturday night in Iowa just 48 hours before the caucuses. The 74-year-old candidate will appear alongside acts like indie bands Vampire Weekend, which hasn't played live in more than a year, and Foster the People, rapper Killer Mike and actor Josh Hutcherson at the University of Iowa.
The rally is clearly a last-minute attempt to drum up Sanders' support among young voters, but it's also a testament to how important they are. Iowa's college students play a big role in Sanders' bid for the presidency against front-runner Hillary Clinton.
“Much hinges on the caucus behavior of college students and 20-somethings in Iowa,” Scripps College professor Vanessa Tyson wrote in an opinion piece for U.S. News and World Report. “For many in this age group, the issue is not whether Clinton would be a good president. The issue is whether her competitors would be better.”
Democratic front-runner and former Secretary of State Clinton may have nabbed the New York Times' endorsement Saturday, but Sanders has a lot to gain going into Monday's caucuses. The theory is that the more people who turn out, the better his chances of winning. CNN pointed to President Barack Obama's 2008 Iowa campaign as an example. Obama staffers were largely behind the 239,000-person turnout, up from 124,000 in 2004.
Like Obama, Sanders is enormously popular among young people, with 60 percent of Democrats under 45 choosing him over Clinton. Sanders told CNN he doesn't think he'll match Obama's Iowa turnout Monday, but events like Saturday's concert show he's sure going to try. His campaign is also starting up a “Go Home for Bernie” initiative to get students to caucus in their hometowns, the New York Times reported.
“If we win this thing, in large measure it’s going to be because these young voters turn out beginning in Iowa and also because we can convince the Democratic establishment that Bernie can be a stronger candidate because of his appeal to young people, the way Barack Obama was in 2008,” Sanders strategist Tad Devine told the Times.
Clinton, for her part, has also brought youth-centered celebrities to Iowa. This month, actress Lena Dunham and singer Demi Lovato stumped for the candidate in Iowa City. Pop diva Katy Perry performed in support of Clinton in Des Moines in October.
Clinton remains roughly 15 percentage points ahead of Sanders nationally, with 50.3 percent support to his 36.8, according to the HuffPost Pollster. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley has 2.2 percent. If Sanders loses Iowa, where he's starting out with an advantage, “it's probably over” for the candidate, FiveThirtyEight predicted. If he wins, it could indicate he's a contender for the Oval Office.
What will happen Monday is anyone's guess. But as of Saturday afternoon, some Iowa college students were ready to #feelthebern.
Vampire weekend performing at a bernie sanders rally is the least surprising headline of 2016 so far i love it
— 土屋咲恵 (@plantblogger) January 28, 2016
Foster the people AND vampire weekend are performing at Bernie sanders rally, I'm voting for Bernie now
— Ethan (@ethanlurcher) January 30, 2016
Bernie has two of my fave bands, vampire weekend and foster the people, coming to his rally. coolest candidate hands down.
— Nicole (@nickihodgepodge) January 30, 2016