A night after Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann, gave a tender recitation of her love story, her husband’s vice presidential nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan , took to the podium to introduce himself to the nation.
On a Republican National Convention stage bearing the night’s theme of “We Can Change It,” the first member of Generation X to ascend to a presidential ticket opened with an acceptance describing a calling, “of my generation to give our children the America that was given to us with opportunity for the young and security for the old … I know that we are ready.”
With a twinge of his Janesville, Wisconsin accent peeking through, Ryan teetered between raking the Obama administration over the coals for what he described as a nasty campaign and a folksy recitation of his life’s story.
The six-term Congressman eagerly took up the traditional mantle of the running-mate in picking apart the perceived failures of the current administration, asking rhetorically at one point, “Without a change in leadership, why would the next four years be any different from the last four years?”
His youth and focus on the nation’s struggling economy are exactly the kinds of selling points that the Romney campaign is hoping will win over young voters like Alex Schriver.
The national chairman of the College Republicans is on hand at the Tampa, Florida, gathering and he sees some hope in the potential vice president’s message. “Paul Ryan is 42 years old, closer in age to me than to [vice president] Joe Biden,” he told MTV News. “This is somebody talking to young people, getting them involved. And As long as we keep doing more and more things like that, we will have more people in our tent.”
Among the bullet points Ryan hit upon during his speech was what he called the “cronyism” of the economic stimulus package, the “divisive” health care legislation known in GOP circles as Obamacare, including a promise to repeal the plan if Romney is elected.
In what was promised as a national introduction to a political veteran who is a familiar face on Capitol Hill but not as well-known to the rest of the country, Ryan instead focused on his strength: the economy. Contrasting what he depicted as the free-spending, do-nothing path of the current administration, Ryan quoted his late father.
“My dad used to say to me, ‘Son, you have a choice: you can be part of the problem, or you can be part of the solution,’” he said. “The present administration has made its choices. And Mitt Romney and I have made ours: Before the math and the momentum overwhelm us all, we are going to solve this nation’s economic problems. ”
Another young RNC attendee, 23-year old Anjoly Ibrahim, a former Democrat who once interned for Democatic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, has looked at Ryan’s budget plans and sees a potential path out of the lingering economic crisis. “I believe Paul Ryan’s budget actually was very well laid-out compared to the other ones that the Democrats were proposing,” she said. “So I think speaking towards the budget will bring out the youth vote.”
Though an unemployment rate of 13.5 percent among voters 20-24 has somewhat damped Obama’s allure, a recent Pew Research poll found that the president was still the favored candidate among those 18-29 by 61 percent to Romney’s 37 percent.
It wasn’t until near the end of his address that Ryan spoke to issues affecting the current generation of young Americans. “College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life,” he said. “Everyone who feels stuck in the Obama economy is right to focus on the here and now. And I hope you understand this too, if you’re feeling left out or passed by: You have not failed, your leaders have failed you.”
Before Ryan spoke, House Majority leader Eric Cantor told CNN that his Congressional friend is a policy wonk, yes, but he’s also a guy who is often plugged into his iPod listening to cool tunes and is, of course, a former fitness instructor and a P90X workout fanatic. Ryan made reference to his iPod on Wednesday night, saying he hopes Romney isn’t offended that he’d rather not play the songs from his candidate’s MP3 player during rallies in favor of his own tunes.
“I said, I hope it’s not a deal breaker, Mitt, but my playlist starts with AC/DC and ends with [Led] Zeppelin,” he said.
“Whatever your political party, let’s come together for the sake of our country,” he said. “Join Mitt Romney and me. Let’s give this effort everything we have. Let’s see this through all the way. Let’s get this done.”
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