After years of getting beat at the ballot box by Democrats when it comes to the youth vote, Republicans gathered in Tampa, Florida, this week for the Republican National Convention are feeling confident that their ticket could turn the tide for the Grand Old Party.
"I think what we're talking about this election is really important for younger voters and the issues are really affecting them today," said Evan Draim, 17, of Alexandria, Virginia, who believes he's the youngest delegate ever at the Republican National Convention. For Draim, now was the time to get involved because as a junior in high school, he's going to start looking at colleges in the fall. He said he's concerned that what he described as President Obama's "restrictive" policies on banking may make it hard for him to get the private loans for tuition that he needs.
"Young Americans should desire from their government the same freedom and individuality that we want from our parents and other authority figures at this age," he said. "I want to be able to make decisions for myself, I think a lot of younger Americans do and Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan's vision of empowering individual citizens rather than the government to have the majority of the control over the economy and other decisions private citizens make resonates with me as a young American."
By choosing Rep. Ryan, 42, the first Gen Xer in history to be on a presidential ticket, Romney not only sought to bring a fiscal leader in Congress to the ticket, he also hoped to close a youth vote gap for the GOP.
According to the Pew Research Center, young voters have given Democrats the majority of their votes in the past three general elections. That number got even more skewed in 2008, when President Obama pulled in 66 percent of the votes from those under 30; John McCain drew 31 percent.
Though an unemployment rate of 13.5 percent among voters 20-24 has damped Obama's allure somewhat, a recent Pew poll found that the president was still the favored candidate among those 18-29 by 61 percent to Romney's 37 percent.
In a sentiment sure to be echoed by many of their older peers, Alex Schriver, national chairman of the College Republicans, said he believes more young voters will turn to the Romney/Ryan ticket this year because the "hope and change" promised by Obama four years ago has failed to materialize for many of his generation.
"Candidate Obama was a lot different than President Obama, so they're looking for somebody to get into the White House that will help them get out of their parent's basement," he said. "Help them get that first job so they can get out and start their life."
As for what he thinks Gov. Romney can do to help those young voters get on the right path, Schriver said cutting taxes and repealing Obama's health care law are the first priorities to create new jobs, followed by re-introducing competition into the student loan market by bringing back the private loan apparatus.
"I think Mitt Romney really reached out to younger voters by selecting Paul Ryan as his vice president," said Draim, who decided to become a delegate in the hopes of encouraging peers he fears may have become disillusioned with the political system. "I think that was a great indication of the kind of president he'll be for American students. Paul Ryan is known as being a champion of fiscal responsibility in the House and I think the debt and the deficit is a big challenge for young Americans."
The choice of Ryan also appeals to Draim because he said it proves to him that Romney is serious about fiscal responsibility and reducing the debt. Plus, he said, Romney's experience in the private sector at Bain Capital is further evidence to him that the former Massachusetts governor is focused on the financial bottom line.
"Last time we didn't really have a record to judge Obama on we were kind of trusting his campaign promises," he added, noting that it's his enthusiasm in politics that has gotten his parents more involved. "Mitt Romney has a proven record of living up to what he's said during campaigns and young voters can be sure that if they vote for him they'll get what he's promising them."
As a law student, Chelsi P. Henry, 24, a delegate from Jacksonville, Florida, is concerned about jobs and she said she's backing the Romney/Ryan ticket because of their stated objective of achieving a balanced budget. "First day under their administration they're going to look at the budget line-by-line and say, 'Do we need this, can we pay for this?'" said Henry, the youngest female delegate and youngest delegate from Florida, as well as the first conservative in her family. "And if we can't pay for it should we be borrowing from China?"
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