GOP envisions its "new guard" vs. Democrats' "old guard" in 2016

CBS

In the 2008 and 2012 elections, President Obama was the candidate who energized and inspired younger generations of voters. His and the Democratic Party's appeal to voters who have little or no memory of Cold War and Vietnam era-politics earned him the support of 60 percent of those between ages 18-29 and 52 percent of those between ages 30-44 in the 2012 election. But what if, in 2016, the exact opposite is true?

The two most frequently mentioned Democratic presidential candidates, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden, will be 69 and 73 on Election Day 2016. Both will have previously run for president. And both will have the baggage of decades of Washington political fights.

In contrast, the leading Republican contenders are years younger. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., will be 45 in November 2016. Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., will be 54. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.? 53. And Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., will be 46. The exception is former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla., who will be 63. But while his candidacy would come with the legacy of his father's and brother's presidencies, he has never served in Washington.

Republicans are quick to point out this possible generation gap between the two parties. Another 2016 contender, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, sounded an optimistic note at a New York Republican Party dinner Wednesday night.

"You have to go back to World War II to see such a transformation of the people leading the fight, leading the argument for conservative principles, being an entirely new generation of leaders stepping forward," Cruz said, per NBC News. "In this new generation of leaders, you see the echoes of that same communication, that same love story of freedom, echoing we are right and all of us together are working to communicate that message." Cruz himself will be 45 in November 2016.

One top Republican official refers to the Republican contenders as the "new guard" and seems to relish the possibility of running against a Clinton or a Biden in 2016. He also points out that if Democrats were to retake the House in 2014 (something he says is highly unlikely), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, R-Calif., would again be the face of their party. She'll turn 76 in 2016.

But Democrats counter that age doesn't matter and that it's the Republican Party's message that will continue to turn off voters.

"Republicans have been struggling with the youth vote for going on three or four cycles in a really big way," says Democratic National Committee Press Secretary Michael Czin. "There's a long time until the primary, and unless Republicans change their policies - from everything on guns to fighting to make sure that college is more affordable in the long term - they're going to continue to alienate young people in a big way."

The Republican National Committee has acknowledged this issue. It highlighted the GOP's troubled outreach to young voters in its "Growth and Opportunity Project" report released in March.

"On messaging, we must change our tone -- especially on certain social issues that are turning off young voters." the report said. "In every session with young voters, social issues were at the forefront of the discussion; many see them as the civil rights issues of our time. We must be a party that is welcoming and inclusive for all voters."

The RNC believes it is laying the groundwork for a 2016 candidate to be able to reach more young voters through social media, grassroots organizing, and online engagement. But it won't be able to pick the party's messenger. There's a good chance the GOP standard-bearer will have age on their side. They may also have the tools to better target young voters. The question will be if the messenger has a message those voters want to hear.

Now here's what else the 2016 contenders have been up to this week:

Vice President Biden: The Vice President and his wife, Jill, have been on a six-day trip to Colombia, Trinidad and Tobago, and Brazil. They have met with key leaders in each country as well as U.S. embassy personnel.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-N.Y.: The New York Times this week highlighted a growing feud between the New York Governor's administration and Canada. Yes, Canada. At issue is an effort to expand the plaza on the New York side of the Peace Bridge, which spans the Niagara River near Buffalo. The bridge is run by a joint Canadian and American committee. The Canadian officials charge New York overpaid for the plaza land. New York officials say the Canadians are dragging their feet on funding.

Gov. Martin O'Malley, D-Md.: On Thursday O'Malley gave a speech touting his administration's approach to strengthening the middle class in Maryland. O'Malley told an audience at the Center for American Progress that Maryland's investments in education, technology, transportation, and other sectors were leading to "better results for a stronger middle class."

Former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla.: Bush was in Michigan this week to speak at the Mackinac Policy Conference. He used his keynote address to talk education and immigration reform. He also said he does not plan to think about a 2016 presidential run for another year. And asked about his mother's recent comment that the country has had "enough Bushes," he said of the former first lady: "Look, all I can say is we all have mothers." While in Michigan, Bush also attended a fundraiser for Republican Gov. Rick Snyder's reelection campaign.

Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J.: We saw the softer side of the New Jersey governor this week. First, he won President Obama a teddy bear during a visit to the Jersey Shore. Then, he and his wife, Mary Pat, described to People Magazine a recent date night they had in New York City. "He actually got a hotel room and we ordered room service for dinner. And we weren't disturbed," Mary Pat told the magazine about their Mother's Day getaway.

Gov. Susana Martinez, R-N.M.: On Thursday a former campaign manager for Martinez's 2010 gubernatorial campaign was indicted for allegedly hacking into campaign email accounts. A U.S. Attorney says Jamie Estrada hacked the accounts of the governor and campaign staff and that some of those emails were subsequently leaked to a PAC critical of the Martinez administration.

The Paul family with Ronald Reagan at the 1976 Republican Convention. (L-R) Robert Paul, Carol Paul, Lori Paul, Joy Paul, Reagan, Ron Paul and Rand Paul
via @SenRandPaul on Twitter

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.: The Kentucky senator is in California today to deliver a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library. In advance of his speech, Paul tweeted of a photo of his family, including his father, former Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, with Reagan in 1976. Paul is just the latest 2016 contender to speak at the library. Sen. Rubio and Gov. Christie, among others, have both visited the library in the past.

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    Caroline Horn is CBS News' senior producer for politics.

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