- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Donald Trump enters the annual Conservative Political Action Conference this week as the Republican presidential front-runner, but he is still getting the cold shoulder from millennial voters like Kyle Foley.

A 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Mr. Foley says he isn’t a Trump fan, and neither are most of the Republicans on campus.

“I know in the College Republicans group here, we probably have about 80 students, and there may be three that like Donald Trump,” said Mr. Foley, who works for the conservative millennial group Turning Point USA and will be attending CPAC this week.

Why? “A lot of us don’t like him because he’s incredibly divisive, he doesn’t have a lot of substance, and any policy he has is just a talking point,” Mr. Foley said. “When he’s pressed on actual details, he doesn’t have them. He spends his time getting personal with his attacks instead of substantive.”

A generation gap is emerging in the billionaire businessman’s firewall as he barrels toward the Republican nomination. In the early primary and caucus states, 18- to 29-year-old voters were the least likely age cohort to support Mr. Trump, according to exit polls conducted by NBC News.

The 69-year-old real-estate mogul won the millennial vote in just one of the first four states, New Hampshire. Mr. Trump took second place in the Iowa caucuses but came in third with millennial voters, trailing Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas overall, who won the Feb. 1 vote, as well as Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida among millennials.

In Nevada and South Carolina, Mr. Trump trailed Mr. Rubio 37 percent to 31 percent with millennial voters, even though Mr. Trump won both those Republican primaries and led with voters in every other age group.

“It kind of seems like Trump is doing well with most of the subgroups in the GOP besides millennials,” said political analyst Salvator La Mastra, author of the book “2012 for Twentysomethings.” “He hasn’t been able to win them over yet.”

Mr. La Mastra said Mr. Trump’s lack of millennial support won’t hinder his chances in the Republican primaries because that age group is underrepresented among the party faithful, “but it will definitely hurt him in the general election if he doesn’t start paying attention to young voters.”

Matthew Mailloux, 19, a sophomore who heads Students for Rubio at La Salle University in Philadelphia, said college students who back Mr. Trump do so for the same reasons others support Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont on the Democratic side.

“I think you see millennials voting for Trump because it’s the cool thing to do, if you will. Almost in the same way that people support Bernie because he’s so different and so outside of politics,” said Mr. Mailloux, who also plans to attend CPAC.

“But I think if you look at the truly principled millennials who are involved in politics and who pay attention to the news, I think you see very, very low support for Trump,” he said.

Millennials who do support Mr. Trump, such as Nicole Been, 21, cite his uncompromising stances on immigration and willingness to run afoul of the arbiters of political correctness, a type college students deal with every day.

“He will not be bullied into anything by anyone and will be strong in the areas we need it most: immigration, foreign policy and the economy,” said Ms. Been, who serves as the northern regional director for Students for Trump. “No other issues will matter if these are not fixed.”

Ms. Been added that her friends are “generally mixed” about Mr. Trump, with some willing to vote for him if he wins the Republican nomination and others vowing to stay at home.

CPAC, which tends to attract millennials more committed to the conservative cause than to specific candidates, may prove a difficult test for Mr. Trump, who deviates from the party platform and the conservative consensus on issues such as health care and free trade.

Marko Sukovic, a 20-year-old student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said millennials making the costly trek to CPAC won’t give Mr. Trump the benefit of the doubt if he dissents from conservative ideology.

Mr. Trump will find himself in unfamiliar territory at CPAC because the audience will largely be passionate millennials who have busted their butts to save the arm and a leg it takes to come up to D.C. from their campuses and take some time off from school,” said Mr. Sukovic, who formerly worked for Students for Rubio.

The rash of criticism stemming from Mr. Trump’s refusal Sunday to renounce the endorsement of former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke hasn’t helped the candidate’s standing with college students. There is already talk of a protest before his speech Saturday at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland.

“I know of a couple different plans in the works on how people want to react to Trump,” Mr. Mailloux said. “Especially after the latest comments, there have been numerous calls from people across the board to uninvite Trump because the conservative movement has never stood for racism or bigotry.”

Other attendees, such as Emily Hensler, 20, questioned the efficacy of protesting a man who seems invulnerable to censure.

“Even though I do not support Trump, I am not going to waste time protesting him when I could be promoting the candidate that I do in fact support,” said Ms. Hensler, who chairs Young Americans for Freedom at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.

But Trump supporters wonder why he is given harsher treatment by conservatives than Democrats running for president.

“Some of my friends actually posted things on Facebook about starting [the protest], and it was very disheartening, especially because they do not even do this to the Democratic candidates,” Ms. Been said.

“I hope they mature enough between now and then and realize that Trump getting the nomination is very, very possible and how poorly it would reflect on them to be so rude,” she said.

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