Clinton Pitches Youth on Social Security

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WASHINGTON: The White House's Social Security sales pitch has begun. In a town hall meeting satellite-linked to 41 college campuses in 28 states, President Clinton, flanked by Robert Rubin (there for number-crunching credibility) and Senator Hillary herself, started with the plan's natural target audience: the youth. "They're trying to get young people engaged and thinking about this," says TIME White House correspondent Jay Branegan. "The college-age voters are the ones whom this plan will really affect." Ancillary purpose: Convince this demographic -- which tends to lean toward it's-my-money libertarianism -- that the rest of Bill's goodies-packed budget is better than Republican tax cuts.

The event turned out to be a little too targeted for White House tastes. Far from a boxers-or-briefs MTV moment, television coverage was relegated to a hiss-filled feed on CSPAN. Perhaps it's that the Republicans have already ceded Clinton his 62 percent of the surplus to save the ailing fund, and that the real budget fight -- over what to do with the rest of the money -- is yet to come. Nevertheless, says Branegan, Wednesday's college-kid push "is only the opening of the debate. He'll hit all the interest groups eventually." Clinton wants this rescue to bookend his legacy. And getting the credit can require a pretty hard sell.