(WASHINGTON) — Vice President Kamala Harris will soon be hitting the road for a monthlong college tour, traveling to more than a dozen campuses across eight states. The trip underscores both the value Democrats are placing on younger voters and the more forceful role Harris is seeking to play on key issues like abortion access ahead of the 2024 election, after weathering two years of scrutiny and low approval ratings.
The vice president’s “Fight for our Freedoms College Tour” begins on Sept. 14 at Hampton University in Virginia. It will focus heavily on mobilizing young voters — some of whom have expressed less than favorable views of President Joe Biden — in states including Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada, Wisconsin and Virginia, with additional campus visits and details to come.
News of the tour, first reported by ABC News, comes as students return to school for the fall semester.
Young voters proved to be a key constituency for Democrats, boosting candidates in the last midterm and presidential election cycles. In 2020, for example, Biden became the first Democratic presidential candidate to win Georgia in nearly 30 years — with voters younger than 30 accounting for 21% of the returns, up from 15% in 2016 and backing Biden by more than 10 points, according to exit polls.
This year, however, Biden has faced low favorability marks from younger voters, according to ABC News/Ipsos polling.
In her tour, Harris is expected to visit a broad range of campuses, from four-year state schools to community colleges, technical colleges, apprenticeship programs and historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs.
“This generation is critical to the urgent issues that are at stake right now for our future,” Harris said in a statement.
“It is young leaders throughout America who know what the solutions look like and are organizing in their communities to make them a reality,” she added. “My message to students is clear: We are counting on you, we need you, you are everything.”
As vice president, Harris has more recently been leading the administration’s work on reproductive rights, reducing gun violence, addressing climate change and voting access — issues that advisers expect to be central to her message as she meets with the students across the country.
In 2021, Harris was also tapped by Biden to focus on finding ways to cut back on migration from Central America — and became a target of conservatives criticizing how the White House was handling the issue.
In the last several months, Harris has taken a larger role in leading the administration’s response to several political fights. When two Black Democratic lawmakers were expelled in Tennessee, she made a last-minute stop in the state pushing for new gun restriction legislation.
In July, she delivered a speech on abortion rights in Iowa, just a few miles from where most of the entire 2024 Republican field gathered for a GOP dinner.
Several days earlier, she traveled to Florida to forcefully rebuke a set of controversial Black history standards approved by the state’s board of education that instructed middle school students should learn “how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”
The intensified travel schedule is a shift for Harris, who had to remain close to Washington for the first two years of the Biden administration to cast tie-breaking votes in an evenly divided Senate.
But with Democrats holding an expanded majority in the chamber after the 2022 midterm elections, Harris has had more time to hit the road and draw direct contrasts with Republican policies — traveling to 17 states this summer and 11 school campuses this year.
The launch of the new college tour also comes as the Biden campaign makes the case for Harris as a “strong political force,” as described in a strategic memo to donors, supporters and political strategists that was obtained exclusively by ABC News last month.
Despite facing weak approval ratings, the memo highlighted polling that the campaign said shows Harris with positive marks among specific groups whom Democrats court in elections: non-white and low-income Americans.
“More important than any approval polling, however, is that the Vice President has established herself as a fearless voice on many of the issues that are most important to the core voters in the Biden-Harris coalition,” Biden campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez and senior adviser Becca Siegel wrote in the memo.
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