Paul Ryan's uncertain impact on the youth vote
Paul Ryan is 42 years old, looks a decade younger, and exudes a youthful energy that a graying President Obama may not be able to match deep into the fourth year of his presidency.
But does any of that really matter to younger voters?
According to a poll conducted by John Zogby over the weekend, the addition of Ryan to the Republican presidential ticket may indeed have boosted the Romney campaign's appeal to the demographic that helped propel Obama to the Oval Office in 2008.
Romney trailed Obama, 49 percent to 41 percent, in the poll of likely voters ages 18 to 29 -- a significant narrowing of the gap from four years ago, when Obama dominated the youth vote over John McCain by 66 percent to 32 percent.
Ryan is the first member of a presidential ticket who was born in the 1970s, and young conservatives appear to be particularly enthused about him.
"He's closer in age to me than he is to Vice President Biden, and someone who's young and energetic has an appeal to young people just because of what he represents," said Alex Schriver, chairman of the College Republican National Committee. "A lot of Congressman Ryan's actions and proposals have been talking about the next generation. You'll see him consistently say, 'My plan is, in part, making sure that we can make promises to young people that we can keep.' "
Romney's oft-repeated account of "going steady" with his "sweetheart" Ann and his frequent use of the word "why" to begin declarative statements are among his many tics that hark back to a distant era. Ryan's lexicon and demeanor, on the other hand, exude a youthfulness with which the post-baby boom generations can identify more readily.
Ryan, after all, was born three years after the late Kurt Cobain, an iconic figure of Generation X.
But for the time being, there is scant polling data on the effect of Ryan's selection on younger voters, and experts on youth voting patterns warn that superficial impressions of a candidate often fade quickly.
A candidate's age, in and of itself, has not been shown as a reliable indicator of how younger voters cast their ballots in past elections.
Peter Levine, the director of CIRCLE -- a nonpartisan group that conducts research on young Americans' political participation -- said that Romney clearly has improved over McCain's standing with young voters but that the Arizona senator's campaign set a low benchmark at a time when Republican youths were particularly unengaged.
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