'I don't really remember the Obama presidency': Why Trump and Biden debate matters in Pa.
A mail-in ballot option for all voters is just one of the voting changes for Pennsylvania in the 2020 presidential election year. Wochit
Sarah Eagan was 11 years old when then-Sen. Barack Obama defeated Sen. John McCain to become the first Black president of the United States.
She was still seven years away from being old enough to vote during that historic election.
"I'm Generation Z," said Eagan, a 23-year-old Montgomery County resident. "I don't really remember the Obama presidency."
And she certainly doesn't remember Joe Biden's vice presidency.
To be clear, that doesn't mean Eagan doesn't remember Obama and Biden being president and vice president for eight years.
Her point is that "Obama-era nostalgia doesn't tend to resonate as a reliable point of motivating younger members of Gen Z," she said. "Of course I remember his historic election, but we need more than that to turn out the youth."
Eagan was 19 when Obama and Biden were finishing their second term in office, and she was more focused on the two presidential candidates on the ballot in 2016: Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Now, as the Pennsylvania press secretary for NextGen America, she is working to organize young voters who will help Biden win.
"But we are still getting to know him," Eagan said.
That's why the presidential debates are so important, she said.
The first of three presidential debates will be held at 9 p.m. Tuesday in Cleveland, and young voters will be watching, Eagan said.
"The Democratic debates were popular among young viewers, and I think the presidential debates will be, too," she said. "With the latest news about Trump's taxes, I believe there is renewed interest in the debates."
What these young voters want to hear in the presidential debate
Kaila Cantens, Emily Carter and Zachary Michener spend most of their days helping young voters get registered to vote and then following up to make sure they have a plan to vote.
That work can go on until 7 p.m. most days.
On Tuesday night, they'll make sure they are done in time to watch the first presidential debate, and they are all waiting to hear something specific.
Cantens, a 25-year-old from the Lehigh Valley, said she wants to Biden's "climate change plan, including green energy, and that he's signing onto the Paris climate agreement on day one."
Michener, a 28-year-old from Hummelstown, said he wants to hear Biden "talk about raising the minimum wage."
Carter, a 24-year-old from Allentown, "would love to see Biden address the Supreme Court nomination and how he thinks Senate Democratic leadership should proceed, and if he's willing to add more members if the GOP pushes the nomination through."
What do Pa. voters want?: Some say Biden, some say Trump, some want a better choice
Why the young vote matters in Pa.
The young vote matters in Pennsylvania because every vote matters in Pennsylvania.
Trump won Pennsylvania in 2016 by 44,000 votes, or less than 1 percentage point. Some analysts have suggested he won in part because some voters, particularly young voters, chose a third-party candidate instead of voting for Clinton.
Eagan said she expects most young voters in Pennsylvania will back the Democrat this year.
Recent polls show Biden leading Trump in Pennsylvania, but the lead is within the margin of error.
Eagan believes young people could help him win the state and presidency.
While Biden wasn't as progressive as Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, his policies are more in line with young people than Trump's, she said.
"The more we learn about Biden, the more we like and we think he's at least willing to listen to the things that are important to us," Eagan said. "Trump doesn't seem willing to listen."
Issues that are most important to young voters are affordable health care, affordable college, and racial equity and justice. That's according to NextGen's polling of young voters.
That polling last month showed 77 percent of young, registered voters are "extremely motivated and had a voting plan," Eagan said.
That enthusiasm has climbed from 70 percent in July, and it's 8 points higher than the same time period in 2016.
"Traditional campaigns don't really talk to young people or don't target our issues, but we have power in numbers," Eagan said. "Young people make up 40 percent of the electorate nationwide."
Most of those voters are leaning toward voting for a Democrat or likely voting for a Democrat, she said.
And consider this: 15 million people turned 18 since 2016.
"Having four years of Trump during very formative points in our identity and politics really shapes the way we vote," Eagan said.
The question is not whether they will vote for Biden but whether they will vote at all.
While there's a lot of enthusiasm in polls, it won't be clear until Election Day if young people show up and vote.
"Voting can be perceived as complicated to some young people," Eagan said. "This year we're trying to make sure they know if they need to bring ballots to drop boxes or polling places."
There's also a "very real dissatisfaction of the system itself," she said.
NextGen has been working to reach young voters early and often, passing out masks that say "vote" and helping voters make sure they're registered.
Eagan is hoping the debate Tuesday night further energizes young voters.
"There's still some room here for us to learn more about Biden," she said. "Maybe the debate will fill in the gaps."
How to watch the presidential debate
President Donald J. Trump, the Republican incumbent, will face off against former Vice President Joe Biden at 9 p.m. Tuesday at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. It is the first of three debates and will be moderated by "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace.
The 90-minute debate will air on every major network and news network. It will also be livestreamed. You can find it on ABC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, MSNBC, NBC, PBS, Telemundo and Univision. The debate can also be found through Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, Roku, Xbox One, YouTube and many more apps.
Wallace will cover multiple topics during the debate: the Trump and Biden Records, the Supreme Court, COVID-19, the economy, race and violence in U.S. cities and the integrity of the election, according to the Commission on Presidential Debates. Each of those segments is slated to last 15 minutes until the debate ends at 10:30 p.m.
Pence in Pa. while Trump and Biden debate
Vice President Mike Pence during the debate will lead a campaign stop and debate watch party in southcentral Pennsylvania.
Pence will be watching with a group of supporters at Meadow Spring Farm in Lititz. Doors open at 5 p.m., and the "Make America Great Again!" event starts at 7 p.m. Go to Trump's campaign website to register for tickets.
The Trump and Biden campaigns have been making multiple stops in Pennsylvania, a battleground state that some analysts say could decide the 2020 presidential race.
Candy Woodall is a reporter for the USA Today Network. She can be reached at 717-480-1783 or on Twitter at @candynotcandace.