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    Liberal lawmakers want to help Biden woo young voters

    Nearly two dozen freshman Democratic lawmakers gathered around a table in a D.C. restaurant last month with one goal in mind: Extract as much insight as possible from President Biden’s former White House chief of staff on how the president can mobilize young voters ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

    Ron Klain, who left the White House this year and is assisting Biden’s campaign preparations, fielded myriad questions during the nearly two-hour dinner about the president’s plan to generate more enthusiasm among young voters and what more needs to be done to court them in a possible second term, according to two lawmakers who attended the event.

    “This administration understands how important the young voters are to [Biden’s] victory,” said Rep. Jasmine Crockett (D-Tex.), who attended the dinner. “The reality is that the president doesn’t have an opportunity to get to every single one of our districts. We know our districts better. We talk to the people in our districts consistently.”

    Liberal lawmakers see themselves as a critical conduit between Biden and the goal of increasing turnout among young voters in 2024. Although young voters have overwhelmingly supported Democrats in the past two election cycles, recent polling shows that those in the 18-29 age bracket approve of Biden at lower levels in comparison with older age groups.

    Young voters also have expressed a desire for new blood in Democratic Party leadership. Some have cited Biden’s age; he would be 82 by the time he was sworn in for a second term. Others have pointed to a desire for more action on issues that are of high importance to younger votes, including climate change, immigration and gun control.

    Several liberal lawmakers said they enthusiastically support Biden’s reelection effort but also see this moment as an opportunity to push the president on issues that are of concern to young, left-leaning voters.

    “It’s about bargaining chips. It’s about organizing. It’s about building a good relationship. And through that relationship, hopefully, getting the kind of legislation … executive actions and proposed policies that we want to see as young people,” said Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.), who did not attend the dinner with Klain but, at age 26, is the first member of Gen Z to be elected to Congress.

    Young voters play an important role in presidential and midterm elections. In 2020, exit polls found that 60 percent of voters under 30 supported Biden over Trump, a larger margin than in any other age group. And support for Biden in the group was slightly higher than it was in 2016 for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, who received 55 percent of support from this age group.

    Democratic lawmakers say that young voters turning out for Biden are just as important for congressional races. In the 2024 midterms, 34 Senate seats are up for reelection, with Democrats defending 23 of them. On the House side, Democrats are targeting 31 Republican-held seats to take back control of the chamber, according to a list from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

    “I need for young people to not be complacent and not allow that apathy to set in,” said Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.).“We got to organize in every corner of this country.”

    Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who also has publicly criticized Biden’s immigration policies, said she will support the Democratic presidential nominee but understands young voters’ apprehension about Biden.

    “There is a lot of frustration with the status quo, as it is particularly around issues that are really important to young people — climate, immigration, criminal justice reform,” she said.

    Since Biden announced his reelection bid, his campaign has focused on increasing digital engagement to reach young voters, according to a campaign official. That includes engaging with social media influencers; the campaign recently hosted a briefing call with social-media influencer managers.

    And Biden’s campaign announcement was followed quickly by endorsements from NextGen PAC, one of the largest youth voter organizations, and MoveOn, a liberal advocacy group.

    Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez, the NextGen president and executive director, said Biden is the only candidate who stands “with women, with working people, and that stands on the side to tackle the climate crisis and tackle gun safety.”

    “They have listened and responded, and that’s why we’re endorsing him, because ultimately, young people really care about progressive policies. And no administration in my lifetime has passed more progressive policy or done more on the issues that young people care about than this administration,” she said.

    The executive director of Alliance for Youth Action, a national network seeking to mobilize young voters, said this bloc of voters wants to know that Biden will continue to advance policies that address issues such as climate change and student loan debt.

    “Young people still want to see results delivered to them,” Dakota Hall said. “And I think the more that they go out there in terms of messaging and in terms of what Biden has been able to achieve for young people … I think that is going to be enough to propel Joe Biden to win young voters.”

    When Biden ran for president in 2020, he tried to appeal to young voters with specific policy proposals, including forgiving some student loan debt, protecting “dreamers” under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, rolling back Trump-era immigration policies and addressing climate change.

    But, in office, the president eventually faced several legal challenges to some of his key campaign promises. Last year, after Biden announced his plan to cancel some student loan debt, Republicans and conservative groups filed multiple lawsuits to block that initiative. The issue is now in front of the Supreme Court, and a decision on the legality of the program is expected next month.

    Congress has not been able to send Biden legislation to sign to codify DACA, a program that protects nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants known as dreamers who were brought to the United States when they were children. In January, Biden also implemented more border restrictions to cut the flow of migrants entering the country unlawfully, drawing the ire of immigrant advocacy groups.

    Rep. Greg Casar (D-Tex.), who has criticized Biden’s immigration policies, told The Post that he is “on board” with Biden’s reelection but will be “pushing him really hard to stand up for immigrants’ rights.”

    “The president will recognize that he should be not just the most pro-labor president in generations, and not just a president that gets things done, but also be a more pro-immigrant president,” Casar said.

    Biden also has tried to make good on his campaign promises of addressing climate change by undoing several Trump-era environmental rollbacks and reinstating dozens of environmental regulations. One of his signature legislative accomplishments, the Inflation Reduction Act, included $370 billion for climate-related efforts. But last month, the Biden administration approved a controversial Alaska oil drilling project, a move that was heavily criticized by environmental groups.

    “We’ve made good progress, but the progress is not complete, and the progress is nowhere where it needs to be,” said Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.), the freshman class president, who campaigned for Biden in 2020. “The Biden administration knows that, and Congress really knows that, and I think members that speak to younger communities know that as well.”

    Two Democratic lawmakers who attended the dinner with Klain said he seemed receptive to their questions on how Biden can turn out more young voters and effectively communicate what he has done for young voters.

    Although Klain is not officially on Biden’s campaign staff, he “has been a trusted aide to President Biden for decades and has long said he’d help the President” in his reelection efforts, a campaign official told The Post.

    Some liberal lawmakers said Klain’s meeting with the freshman Democrats signals that the White House still cares about their perspectives on the upcoming election. When Klain served as Biden’s chief of staff, he often served as a bridge between the more-liberal wing in Congress and the president’s inner circle.

    “For Ron to be talking to our class as freshmen who are still learning, it really just says a lot about the respect that this administration has even for us,” Crockett said.

    Rep. Summer L. Lee (D), a former labor and Democratic Party organizer in her home state of Pennsylvania, added that Democrats also need to ensure that they are talking about what Biden can do that will help young people in the months ahead of the election.

    “The best thing that we can do right now is to allow those of us who have an audience with them, allow those of us who have good relationships and build trust with them, … do the work that we need to do to get them the general and 2024,” she said.

    Emily Guskin contributed to this report.



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