Paul Ryan and the GenX Factor: An opportunity for the GOP with younger voters?

The USA Today reports on the Rep. Paul Ryan and his potential for bringing young voters to the GOP:

At 42, Paul Ryan is the first national candidate clearly on the GenX side of the generational line, closer in age to teen Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas than he is to 69-year-old Joe Biden, the man Ryan wants to replace as vice president.

Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s choice of the Wisconsin congressman as his running mate complicates for both parties a cross-generational argument that has largely been swinging between 20-something Millennials and seniors older than 65.

And it has sharpened the 2012 debate over the way Americans retire, get health care and care for the disadvantaged — and who pays for it. Substantively and symbolically, Ryan does this in a way that perhaps no other politician could have.


Ryan represents a new breed of politician willing to rewrite New Deal and Great Society promises. He favors limited-government solutions that might go beyond even those of Ronald Reagan, whom Ryan often quotes but was too young to ever vote for. His plan to cut federal spending by $5.3 trillion over the next decade and to gradually convert Medicare to a government subsidized program instead of a government-run one have long made him both a darling of the right and a target of the left.


Jay Zeidman, a co-chair of Maverick PAC, a Republican political action committee aimed at young professionals, said his group has seen an increase in Web traffic and sign-ups since Romney announced his selection. The 29-year-old said Ryan not only appeals to young voters because he’s young and energetic, but because he has the ability to start the conversation about entitlement reforms with a new generation of voters.

“He translates why it will matter to us,” Zeidman said.

Brad Dayspring, a senior adviser to the YG Action Fund, a conservative super PAC, said Ryan’s appeal is both style and substance.

“He’s the guy you’d see walking around the House, his ear buds in, listening to Led Zeppelin one minute — and then the next he is grilling Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner on a complex budget issue,” Dayspring said.


Ryan is 6-foot-2, lean, with a clip of Wisconsin in his voice. He has been described as a workout fiend, and his energy and age — along with a young family — would automatically enhance the generational themes that imbue every campaign.

But his 27-year age gap with Biden will be striking when they debate in October. In Biden, the Democrats have a senior citizen messenger who can carry the attacks on Ryan and Romney to his own age cohort. By contrast, Ryan gives Republicans a youthful messenger who comes from a generation that will bear many of the costs of today’s decisions.

I am so looking forward to the coming weeks and watching the contrasts between O’Biden and Romney/Ryan play out on TV, in speeches, in ads, etc. and ultimately in the debates, but I’m especially interested in how the Ryan pick plays with younger voters – who are hard for conservatives to win over thanks to a pop culture that is overwhelmingly left wing in nature. I remember back in 2008 how fawning media types predicted Obama’s young age and his “cool factor” made him an “inspirational figure” for younger voters, which was especially frightening considering his radical left wing policy views. Those policy views have played out in a way that has not benefited the young people who pulled the lever for him the first time around. For example, youth employment is out of control, and ObamaCare will be paid for, in part, on the backs of youths who don’t have insurance and who won’t get it. Furthermore, young people in the future will be paying dearly for checks this administration has written on a whole host of other issues that it cannot cash.

Ryan is like any other politico who has made bad decisions along the way during his time on the US House, taking some stances on issues that have been at odds with the Tea Party. But once Obama took office and made health care “reform” his top priority, it looks as though Ryan turned his attention to the fact that this country is in danger of falling off of a fiscal cliff if it didn’t get its spending priorities in order, and he offered bold and debatable possible solutions to the table, saying: “Look at these. Let’s talk about it. Let’s put these tough issues on the table. Let’s be honest with the American people about where we stand.” In turn, Democrats have labeled Paul Ryan as a “radical right winger” who wants to “end Medicare”, and push old ladies off a cliff — standard scare tactics and talking points without a shred of actual evidence to back it up. In other words, while Ryan has tried to move forward with solutions, Democrats have offered more of the same. Their strategy is a war of words over actions. Ryan’s budgets have passed the US House. Can we say the same for Barack Obama? Nope.

But in doing all that he has in the last few years, Ryan has explained his positions in a plain-spoken way that has the potential to appeal to voters who are turned off and/or are confused by “politi-speak.” Not only that, but his charm, his genuinely easy-going nature, his good personality and looks, and his middle class background could make him a big hit with younger generations.

This is one of the main reasons I was so excited about Mitt Romney’s announcement that he had picked Paul Ryan. Conservative ideals can only continue to take root and advance if we have plenty of young people who are willing to fight the same battles we have, and Ryan’s veep candidacy brings me hope along those lines. Assuming Romney gets elected, and then re-elected, that’s 8 years for Paul Ryan to make the huge positive impact on younger generations that we know he can. And beyond that, who knows what the future holds?

I, for one, am eager to find out.


Related Reading: Kerry Picket – Ryan’s generation x-cellent

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