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Haley makes a play for younger voters — who grew up in the Trump era

At some point, nearly every political campaign makes some effort to appeal directly to younger voters. The extent of that outreach varies from candidate to candidate and year to year. But there’s always a pool of young people marginally attached to the political process that campaigns think are worth contacting, if only once.

From the outset, former ambassador Nikki Haley’s bid for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination has been to an extent predicated on age. When she announced her candidacy, she made a pointed reference to the need for a “new generation” of leadership — an obvious effort to contrast her age with those of both President Biden and the front-runner for the GOP nomination, Donald Trump. (A few weeks ago, she released a campaign ad specifically calling out Biden’s age.) This reinforces both her opponents’ advanced ages and taps into generational frustrations regularly expressed by younger Americans.

On Friday, Haley is slated to hold an event in Iowa targeting voters who are members of Gen Z, those born between 1997 and 2006. It’s an age group that made up about 1 in 8 caucus-goers in the 2016 Iowa contest and could help swing a close contest.

It is also a group of voters that is the first to have come of age in the Donald Trump era of politics.

Those of us of a certain age (that is, not Gen Z) may still view Trump’s arrival on the American political scene as something relatively recent. In part because of its ongoing saliency to political discussions, 2016 seems relatively recent. But, of course, it is not. Trump announced his first presidential bid 8½ years ago, in June 2015. His presidency began seven years ago this month. He’s been a prominent figure in Republican politics for nearly a decade and the most important figure in the GOP for nearly eight years.

I am old, a member of Gen X (those born, according to the Pew Research Center, between 1965 and 1980). Even so, nearly a fifth of my life has elapsed since Trump first came down the escalator in Trump Tower. He’s been a dominant force for a large percentage of my life — and, depending on how old you are, yours.

But that’s much more the case for younger Americans, given how percentages work. For those born after the end of Gen Z (a group too young to vote at the moment), nearly their whole lives have unfolded in the Trump era of politics. The percentages decline as birth years increase, but even if you were born 100 years ago today, Trump’s national political career has made up 1 out of every 11 days of your life.

If you’re curious about what percentage of your own life has unfolded in the Trump era, you can use the tool below. Also feel free to see what it looks like for someone born in, say, 2000.

(This information is not stored.)

It’s not necessarily the case that this is important. But when we consider that nearly 50 percent of the lives of members of Gen Z have elapsed since his 2015 announcement — and significantly more of their adult lives — we are reminded of the size of the hill that Haley needs to climb. She’s not just battling Trump. She’s battling the embodiment of Republican politics for most of those voters’ lives.

This is admittedly overwrought; voters often have relatively facile guidelines for making political choices, but it’s not necessarily the case that they are simplistically beholden to leaders with whom they’ve grown up. Research has shown, though, that younger ages, like those of members of Gen Z at the moment, are more formative in establishing political opinions. And Haley is not talking to young people in general; she’s talking to young Republicans specifically.

Or … is she? Efforts are underway to encourage independents or Democrats to turn out for Republican primaries to help non-Trump candidates compete against the former president and current front-runner. Iowa’s caucuses are reserved for Republicans, but voters can register with the party on the day of voting.

Young independents and Democrats have also spent most of their lives with a Republican Party that exists in Trump’s shadow. Their assessments of that shadow are presumably significantly different than those of younger Republicans — and might make them more receptive to Haley’s candidacy.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post