As a millennial, I can't decide whether to be flattered by how hard the 2016 presidential candidates are trying to woo my generation, or utterly flabbergasted by how lame their ploys are.
Candidates from both parties seem to be tapping into anything and everything that focus groups and Today show segments have told them millennials like, resulting in campaign outreach efforts full of emojis, photo filters, pop culture references and, for some reason, bacon. Often, they end up looking like my 64-year-old dad — who is still convinced Facebook steals your identity and has asked "What's a Twitter?" — if he suddenly tried to act like he was super savvy at sending snaps.
The candidates' outreach efforts make some sense, of course. Millennials, who number 90 million, account for just under 40 percent of eligible voters, CNBC reports. Moreover, a recent Pew Research Center survey found that 51 percent of white millennials and 47 percent of nonwhite millennials consider themselves to be independent, which, in theory, means a huge swath of millennial voters is up for grabs.
Here are 11 of the ways candidates have tried — and failed — to win over the youth:
1. Ben Carson made a rap ad
Ben Carson attempted to appeal to young voters with a rap radio ad. The campaign's explanation: Carson was "reaching out and talking to them in a language they prefer and in a language that, and in a cultural format that they appreciate." "Them," in this case, refers to "a non-traditional voting market for Republicans," Carson's campaign spokesman Doug Watts told ABC News.
Lyrics by artist Aspiring Mogul — also known as "The Black Republican" — were mixed over monotone clips from Carson's stump speeches, resulting in an ad that you have to hear to believe:
2. Ted Cruz posed shirtless
It's unclear exactly what the Texas senator was trying to accomplish with this photoshopped shirtless image of himself showing off a slew of fake tattoos, throwing up some sort of sign, and smoking a cigarette — aside from searing an image into everyone's minds for eternity. But apparently, his campaign thought these posters would be a good way to win over the youth.
— Andrew Kaczynski (@BuzzFeedAndrew) September 9, 2015
3. Hillary Clinton tried to start a conversation about college debt — in emojis
The Democratic frontrunner seems to have missed the memo that millennials can have serious conversations in words — and actually prefer to use words over emojis for said serious conversations. Rather than straight up ask young people how they felt about college debt, Clinton requested responses in "3 emojis or less." It didn't go over well.
.@HillaryClinton You know what people who went to college can use? Words.
<--That's for Obama's mom jeans, which are less embarrassing than this tweet. https://t.co/HB0ypTBaoc
— rob delaney (@robdelaney) August 12, 2015
You guys know we can use emojis on occasion but then also have articulate discussions about economic matters, right? @HillaryClinton
— Brooklyn Middleton (@BklynMiddleton) August 12, 2015
4. John Kasich made a bacon Snapchat geofilter
For some reason, Kasich's team thought that giving New Hampshire Snapchat users a chance to use a "sticker" of the Republican presidential candidate's logo made out of bacon would be a surefire way to stir up some excitement and advertise on social media. "Budget pork isn't our taste but who doesn't love bacon and, of course, who doesn't love Snapchat?" Kasich's spokesman Scott Milburn said. "You've got to have some fun with it all, right?"
Why bacon? Apparently some people thought that the Ohio governor's actual campaign logo somewhat resembles the breakfast food.
No, we don't quite get it either.
— bobarcher (@bobarcher1) September 2, 2015
5. Jeb Bush tweeted about Star Wars
The former Florida governor tweeted out a new campaign logo in which his Jeb! logo shape shifted to instead spell out Jedi Force. The 'i' — or what used to be the exclamation point — was a light saber.
— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) September 4, 2015
6. Rand Paul made a photo app
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul thought creating a photo editing app would be a fun way to let supporters literally #StandWithRand. Instead, this happened.
Rand Paul's new app lets you take a picture with him! What could go wrong? pic.twitter.com/jvAmcVdQbJ
— Olivia Nuzzi (@Olivianuzzi) September 2, 2015
— America's Newsroom (@AmericaNewsroom) September 3, 2015
— DETAILS (@DETAILS) September 3, 2015
7. John Kasich and Martin O'Malley promoted Uber and kittens
You know your poll numbers must not be looking so good when you're turning to Uber and kittens to try to curry favor. Low-polling presidential candidates O'Malley and Kasich both agreed to promote Uber's kitten delivery stunt on National Cat Day. Because all millennials love Uber and cats....right?
— Martin O'Malley (@MartinOMalley) October 29, 2015
— John Kasich (@JohnKasich) October 29, 2015
8. Rick Perry released a country-rap song and a music video
The former Texas governor kicked off his presidential announcement with a country-rap song about himself. The song, by Colt Ford featuring JJ Lawhorn, is called "Answer to No One" and, as National Journal points out, it "draws heavily" from Queen's "We Will Rock You."
Here's a sampling of the lyrics:
Shotgun toter / Republican voter
Rick Perry supporter / Let's protect our border
To heck with anyone who don't believe in the USA / Rick Perry all the way!
And, in case that wasn't enough, here's the music video:
9. Bernie Sanders danced for Ellen Degeneres
Even the typically serious Vermont socialist has been getting silly. In a recent appearance on Ellen, the Democratic presidential candidate talked about what flavor of ice cream he'd be ("Burn, Bernie, Burn"), his favorite member of One Direction ("Harry" — audience assistance was required on this one), and the karaoke song he'd most like to sing ("Stayin' Alive" or, as he called it, "John Travolta walking down the street." He also danced:
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) October 15, 2015
10. Ted Cruz impersonated Homer Simpson
BuzzFeed managed to get the Texas senator to do a mock audition for The Simpsons, as a piece of supporting evidence for an article titled "Ted Cruz Knows How to Go Viral." Cruz gives his best shots at Ned Flanders, Mr. Burns, Homer, and Lisa. Kids love The Simpsons, right?
11. Hillary Clinton took a Snapchat of herself 'just chillin'
Back in July, Clinton Snapchatted herself hanging out on a canoe in Cedar Rapids. Aside from the fact that Clinton held the camera way too close to her face, the snap was a success, getting nearly 24 million views after it was uploaded to Vine. It's yet to be determined whether people were laughing with her or at her.
So, if I may, some advice for these would-be leaders of the free world: We millennials might be young, but we can express our thoughts without emojis. Yes, we use Snapchat, but that doesn't mean a bacon geofilter is going to sway our loyalties. And, please, keep the rapping and the shirtless photos to a minimum.