As a senator in 1959, he spoke to a gathering of young people in Chicago, urging them to become involved without becoming cynical. (See Tribune article below.) "Many parents still want their sons to become president, but they don't want them to become politicians in the process," he said. In his 1960 presidential inaugural address, he said: "Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans. ..." Eugene McCarthy
Minnesota senator galvanized college students with his anti-war message in the 1968 presidential race. Sue Hestor, a young graduate of Wheaton College in Illinois who campaigned for McCarthy, said that March: "Kids aren't going to Fort Lauderdale this spring vacation. They want to work for McCarthy." Mainstream America was so nervous about hippies that young McCarthy supporters tried to be "neat and clean for Gene."
The New York senator got into the 1968 race late and sought to woo the youth vote from McCarthy, but he also was careful not to look like a member of the counterculture. The New York Times noted in May 1968: "His hair, though still full, has been clipped progressively shorter." But his message reflected the idealism of youth. Quoting George Bernard Shaw, he said: "Some people see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say why not?" Kennedy was assassinated, and McCarthy lost the nomination.
The South Dakota senator thought his 1972 presidential bid would benefit from the lowering of the federal voting age from 21 to 18. Before the Illinois primary, 500 students a day were registering at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. Despite youth support, McGovern lost in a landslide.
In the 1992 race, the Arkansas governor tried to tap into the youthful Kennedy mystique by running a biography at the Democratic Convention with a clip of the 16-year-old Clinton shaking hands with JFK. His campaign came out of the convention to the strains of Fleetwood Mac singing, "Don't stop thinking about tomorrow."
The former Vermont governor's young backers called themselves "Generation Dean" and the "Deaniacs." His 2004 campaign took advantage of the Internet and appealed to youth for their advice and support. But while young supporters gave Dean an early boost, his campaign fizzled.
Sources: Chicago Tribune and New York Times archives