CHARLOTTE — Party faithful at this week's Democratic National Convention insist that if there is a dearth of enthusiasm to re-elect President Obama, all will be righted after the President speaks Thursday.
"You might not be able to re-capture what we had in 2008, but we're all still very excited and motivated," said S.C. Rep. Barkari Sellers, 27. "Over the next couple of days you'll see that build up."
Young voters are largely credited with propelling Obama to office in 2008. But there are doubts about whether recent college graduates, who have faced difficult job struggles, will return to the polls this year.
Obama has made high-profile stops at college campuses across the country in the weeks leading up to the convention. An estimated 15 million Americans have reach voting-age since Obama took office, and he's aiming to capture those.
But even some Democrats have doubts. Despite a relatively young 51-year-old president, the party is led by Baby Boomers and holdovers from the Civil Rights movement.
"We've got to do a better job engaging young people," said Fred Swann, 34, of Macon, Ga., who was attending the DNC as a guest this week. "There has been a failure on the local level to engage young people in a meaningful way."
Georgia hasn't elected a Democrat for President since 1996, and South Carolina, where Sellers is regarded as a rising star, hasn't been carried by a Democrat since 1976.
"Our party is one that has to grow," Sellers admits. "When you get old in terms of ideas, you have to reinvent yourself. That's what we are going through right now."
Long-term prospects aside, Democrats at this week's convention say Obama still has what it takes to bring out young voters. They see excitement in Charlotte and back home.
"I know there is a lot of talk out there about the lack of enthusiasm among young people, but I don't know where that's coming from," said Elaine Almquist, 28, of Medford, Mass. "I'm really excited to re-elect our President."
Mitt Romney, despite a sour economy on his side, still doesn't have appeal for young voters, Almquist said.
"Mitt Romney is not even an option," Almquist said. "We're excited to continue … building our economy, investing in the future and making sure that I have a secure future."