With the Republican presidential primary debate on the economy just weeks away, all eyes are on the University of Colorado (CU) at Boulder and how the candidates will appeal to young people.  

The debate, in itself, has been shrouded with controversy. From CNBC eliminating opening statements for candidates to the outcry from CU students who say they are not being be represented properly in the debate audience; the event organizers, the Republican National Committee (RNC), are presented with problems that need to be solved as soon as possible.


One major problem is millennials do not believe they are being properly engaged by the Republican Party. The ever-growing popularity of “tuition-free” college is being touted by Democratic candidates, such as Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersPoll shows 36 percent support Trump's reelection, 43 percent prefer generic Democrat Trump's approval rating holds steady at 45 percent amid government shutdown: poll Senate Dems introduce bill to keep DACA info private MORE and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPavlich: Mueller’s indictment of the media Poll shows 36 percent support Trump's reelection, 43 percent prefer generic Democrat How the Clinton machine flooded the FBI with Trump-Russia dirt … until agents bit MORE.  The recent Democratic debate integrated social media engagement and national policy concerns in a way that, perhaps surprisingly, worked very well.  

CNBC’s Oct. 28 debate needs to be eye-catching, engaging, and informative. Having those three qualities will allow for substantial engagement of young people.  

The past two Republican debates garnered over 20 million viewers. The first Republican debate brought in 24 million viewers, whereas the Democratic debate was viewed by 15.3 million. The second Republican debate was watched by an estimated 23 million viewers.  

With audiences at levels some say match NFL viewership, Republican candidates need to provide messaging that is clear, concise, and relatively easy to understand, so young people, especially those that may not know much about many policy issues or may not understand insider jargon, can ultimately comprehend what is sure to be an incredibly important debate. 

Candidates, such as Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpCoast Guard chief: 'Unacceptable' that service members must rely on food pantries, donations amid shutdown Dem lawmaker apologizes after saying it's never been legal in US to force people to work for free Grassley to hold drug pricing hearing MORE and Ben Carson, already have scores of supporters that are older and middle-aged, but some of these stances, when taken out of context, can be and have been thought of as ‘hate speech’ to younger generations. This phenomenon occurs, not because young people are apathetic, but because young people are exposed to a realm of diversity and acceptance that wasn’t popular with older conservatives or liberals. 

Having the debate on a college campus also presents the candidates and the RNC with a unique opportunity to engage with younger voters. CU-Boulder is notorious for being a liberal haven. The City of Boulder itself is often referred to as the “People’s Republic of Boulder.” 

Aside from that, groups on the CU-Boulder campus have come out saying that they want to engage with the Republican debate participants on a professional basis rather than be treated as though they are “stupid college kids.” 

One group, Student Voices Count, has made national headlines as an advocate for CU-Boulder students to be represented more proportionately in the debate audience. The group calls on the RNC to allow for 800 more tickets to properly represent the roughly 30,000-member student body. Initially, 100 tickets were set aside for the entire CU-Boulder community. All other tickets were reserved for media, staffers, and VIPs.  

Students, like those who founded Student Voices Count, are eager to engage with policymakers, especially a potential president. Young conservatives also want to have a heavy-weighted voice that looks beyond the party establishment and bring in a new generation of leaders and voters.  

The CNBC debate is set to be one of the most important debates for the Republican primary. The RNC and the candidates are presented with an opportunity to win young voters back, not just at CU-Boulder, but also at the NBC News-University of Houston debate, which is scheduled to occur just prior to Super Tuesday. Republicans must not take this opportunity for granted.

McGrady is a contributor to Red Alert Politics and an undergraduate at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, studying political science and criminal justice.