Meetings of the College Democrats that attracted 200 people in 2008 now pull in a dozen. New voter registration is way down, too, and free posters of President Obama — once “the Michael Jordan” of politics, as one freshman put it — are now refused by students.

“It’s not the fad anymore,” said Jessica Kirsner, 21, a junior from Houston and vice president of the College Democrats. “It’s not the fad to be politically knowledgeable and active.”…

A greater degree of focus on the young, the University of Miami students said, would have helped break through the talking points being offered by Republicans. Even on mostly liberal college campuses, the arguments against Mr. Obama have become more common. “The other day, they were blaring Rush Limbaugh in the breezeway,” said Gaurav Dhiman, 20, president of the College Democrats.