By Luciana Lopez
NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton launched a bid on Thursday to draw young voters and small donors to her campaign, targeting the strengths of her rival, Bernie Sanders, as she looks ahead to the general election.
Dubbed “for45” – for Clinton as the 45th president of the United States – the group will offer associate level membership for as low as $250, according to an invitation seen by Reuters for an April 25 Philadelphia event.
“We will have an opportunity to fundraise and host low-dollar events, speaking to what we are passionate about and why we support her,” said Akilah Ensley, a 32-year-old Clinton supporter planning to join the group. “It’s important that we engage.”
The group held its “kick-off” conference call on Thursday, featuring the Clinton campaign’s finance director, Dennis Cheng, other campaign officials, and actress Lena Dunham, according to an invitation to the call.
The group includes two other tiers, according to an information sheet seen by Reuters – a “member” level with minimum fundraising of $2,500 and an “advisor” level for raising at least $10,000.
The Clinton and Sanders campaigns did not respond to requests for comment.
The formation of the group underscores the challenge facing the former secretary of state in winning over the young people who have helped power Sanders’ run. Younger voters are a critical voting block and source of financing should she win the Democratic nomination for the Nov. 8 presidential election.
Clinton has a commanding delegate lead over Sanders, the U.S. senator from Vermont, and checked his momentum by winning New York’s primary earlier this week.
But she has struggled to attract younger voters. While she won New York on Tuesday by 16 points, Sanders took 65 percent of Democratic voters aged 18 to 29, according to exit polls conducted by Edison Research and published in the New York Times. Younger voters have also turned out more heavily for Sanders in other states.
Sanders so often boasts about his average donation level of $27 that rally crowds now shout the number out along with him.
Steve Schale, a Democratic strategist in Florida who is not affiliated with the Clinton campaign, said for45 was a “smart way” to begin courting Sanders’ supporters. He compared it with the “Gen44” group of young voters that supported President Barack Obama.
“Anything that spurs people to get involved financially, it just builds more ownership in the campaign,” he said.
(Reporting by Luciana Lopez; Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Peter Cooney)