Paul Ryan's uncertain impact on the youth vote
"I don't believe the fact that Ryan is relatively young himself has that much of an appeal," Levine said. "There's a tendency to think young people are just into superficiality, but I tend to find they vote based on their policy views."
In a nationwide poll conducted online and released weeks before the addition of Ryan to the GOP ticket, CIRCLE found that Obama was leading Romney by a 55 percent to 42 percent margin among 18-to-29-year-old voters.
Unsurprisingly, economic concerns were at the top of those voters' priorities, as a plurality of 33 percent named "jobs and the economy" as the most important issue for politicians to address.
The fiscal issues with which Ryan's political career is most closely associated, on the other hand, registered relatively low in the poll.
The federal budget deficit was named as the top concern by just 10.5 percent of young respondents in the CIRCLE poll, while Social Security and retirement clocked in at only 2.9 percent.
Republican strategist Kristen Soltis, communications adviser for Crossroads Generation -- a pro-Romney super PAC that targets young voters -- agreed that Ryan's relative youth, "while certainly not a downside," was overrated as a selling point to the youth demographic.
Solis said that if Romney and Ryan want to expand their appeal to younger voters, they should not "take the bait" on making the election a referendum on entitlement reform.
"There are some obvious ways that [Ryan's] message of 'Hey, we need to fix this program so that it can be there for you,' that that could be really appealing," she said. "But with unemployment so high with young people, with so many of them having to move in with mom and dad to make ends meet -- so many of them having student loan debt -- the personal economic stuff is going to be even more influential in how young people vote."
Democrats seem to be under no illusions about the extent to which the enthusiasm advantage Obama enjoyed four years ago among younger voters has closed. The president's allies purport not to be any more concerned about that trend than they are about signs of declining ardor among other elements of his 2008 base.
Democrats know full well that the record crowd sizes and at times ear-splitting level of adulation that once greeted Obama on college campuses may never return. In light of that, they intend to make Ryan's budget plan a political liability among young voters in the same manner they have tried with the electorate at large.
Democratic strategist Maria Cardona acknowledges that the Ryan pick "will excite the conservative youth vote because he's young and -- in their minds -- hipper than Romney, which he is," but she sees an overarching factor. And that is "where he stands on the issues. Paul Ryan is very conservative. He's a darling of the Tea Party."
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