Lucas Agnew is a dual major in government and legal studies at Claremont McKenna College in California. He knows most young people don’t share his passion for politics — only 21 percent of people ages 18-34 voted in the 2014 midterm elections, he notes.
The 21-year-old Washington native also knows that most people his age — even if they are into politics — don’t share his preferred 2016 presidential candidate: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. So he decided take action on both counts: voting, and voting for Jeb.
Enter “Millennials for Jeb.” Last month, Agnew (who is no relation to Richard Nixon's Vice President Spiro Agnew, for those who care) filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to set up the new super PAC. All it took was a conversation with his brother, a quick Google search about how to set up a super PAC, and knowledge of campaign-finance laws from his college classes.
“The Federal Election Commission’s website keeps a list with the names of all super PACs. There were about four with the name ‘millennials’ in their title, and none of them had raised any money or done anything,” Agnew told Fusion in a phone interview Tuesday night.
“So I thought, you know what, this is something that could really be capitalized on,” he added. “I thought there was a window for it.”
The site went live on Tuesday, and he unveiled other affiliated social platforms — Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat, with more coming — to get out his message. By his account, he’s already eclipsed the other “millennial” super PACs, scoring at least a couple donations on his first day. (He declined to say how much total he'd raised on the first day.)
Agnew plans to put about 85 percent of the committee’s funds toward outreach through an aggressive social media campaign. He’ll be on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and more, trying to develop “pro-Jeb content that has the potential of going viral.” He said he’s already heard from three students who want to set up chapters at their colleges. And he has pledged to devote about 15 percent of the PAC’s funds to registering young voters.
“We’re going to be all over your social media,” he said.
Agnew, who said he does not know anyone in the Bush family, has worked on multiple national-level campaigns for Republican candidates — Rob McKenna’s campaign for Oregon governor, and Bill Driscoll’s campaign for the House of Representatives.
Both of those candidates lost their elections. And he knows this campaign will be nothing if not more difficult — Bush’s possible opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has distinct advantages across the board. Fusion’s Massive Millennial Poll last month found her with a massive lead among young voters. She’s also had outside groups, like “Ready for Hillary,” backing her potential candidacy for about two years.
One comment on Twitter, Agnew said, gave him a sense of the kind of uphill battle he’s undertaking with young voters. On potentially buying a flask emblazoned with Bush’s face from the Millennials for Jeb site, one user commented, “I can’t wait to buy it and fill it with cyanide.”
“So I guess it has that going for it,” he said.
But he admires what he said were Bush’s principled stands on immigration and education, something that separates the candidate, at times, from the rest of the Republican Party. Agnew cited a data point echoed in Fusion’s poll — that half of millennials say they are unaffiliated with a particular party. He thinks they just need a nudge with the right candidate and the right message.
“If we could all get involved, regardless of who we vote for, I think that the millennial generation can have a moderating effect on the kind of hyperpartisanship that we see today,” Agnew said.
Brett LoGiurato is the senior national political correspondent at Fusion, where he covers all things 2016. He'll give you everything you need to know about politics, with a healthy side of puns.