Paul Ryan's Youthful, But Can He Get The Youth Vote? At 42, Paul Ryan is the first member of a presidential ticket from Generation X. The GOP vice presidential candidate works out and likes the band Rage Against the Machine, but the jury's out on whether his relative youth gives him an advantage with younger voters.
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Paul Ryan's Youthful, But Can He Get The Youth Vote?

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Paul Ryan's Youthful, But Can He Get The Youth Vote?

Paul Ryan's Youthful, But Can He Get The Youth Vote?

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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The choice of Paul Ryan has generated a lot of buzz at the Republican convention, especially among young voters. Youth Radio's Robyn Gee has this report on the Ryan effect.

ROBYN GEE, BYLINE: When you talk to young Republicans in Tampa about their vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, they're nothing short of dreamy-eyed. Ryan is about as close to a bona fide celebrity as the party has got. I mean, what congressman wouldn't welcome these comparisons?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I would say a smart short-haired Paul Rudd.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Yeah, a brunette Ryan Gosling.



UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Maybe even Carson Daly back in the day.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: I don't know, a little bit.

GEE: Some young Republicans say even though Ryan doesn't bring the racial or gender balance they'd hoped for, his youthfulness complements the Republican ticket.


JAY-Z: (Rapping) Go on and brush your shoulders off. Yeah, dirt off your shoulders...

GEE: Candidate Obama got a lot of the youth vote back in 2008. He was endorsed by celebrities like Jay-Z and Matt Damon, trash-talked 20-somethings on the basketball court, and traded fist bumps with Michelle.

But now, Paul Ryan gets his pop culture game on too. There's one reference his admirers seem particularly excited about.


RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE: All hell can't stop us now...

GEE: No, it's not the alt rock group Rage Against the Machine. It's the fitness craze P90X, a popular video workout that Ryan sometimes leads on the Hill.

PAUL RYAN: Pull-ups, push-ups, sit-ups, lots of cardio, karate and jump training, yoga. I had three jobs when I came out of college. One of them was a fitness trainer.

GEE: Conservative pundits are all abuzz about some of Ryan's favorite pastimes. But extreme fitness and alternative rock aren't that surprising for someone who, at age 42, sits smack in the middle of Generation X.

KRISTIN BRADSTREET: I was raised as a - in Baptist church. But fiscal issues at this time in my life really are my number one.

GEE: Twenty-year-old Kristin Bradstreet is chair of the University of South Florida College Republicans. She appreciates that Ryan is a family man. But she also loves the policy wonk side of Ryan because of his focus on the economy.

BRADSTREET: I graduate this December, and I have tons of student loans. So fiscal issue is my only issue because I have six months to get a job and start paying for my loans.

GEE: Bradstreet didn't spell out how Ryan would ease these worries, but she's confident he will.

BRADSTREET: We love his budget plan, and we think that he would do great things with the economy.

GEE: Many young Republicans here in Tampa seem happy Ryan has a plan at all and can talk about it eloquently, even if they can't explain the details. Of course, these are the young party faithful.

Twenty-seven-year-old Rosalie Thompson, an independent voter from Tampa, says Ryan's youthfulness doesn't influence her one way or the other. It's his politics that do.

ROSALIE THOMPSON: I really think he's turning people off. But I think he's trying to reach for that vote, but he's failing miserably because he knows nothing about, you know, the 99 percent.

GEE: But there is an opportunity for Republicans to grab other young voters. Polling from CIRCLE, which follows youth civic engagement, shows that first-time voters between 18 and 21 years old are trending slightly more conservative than the rest of the millennial generation.

But will Paul Ryan spend any time actively courting the youth vote? If he does, the Florida College Republicans we talked with have a few tips for him. Ralph D'Elia says Ryan needs to spread his message to young people via nontraditional news outlets.

RALPH D'ELIA: "Saturday Night Live" is one that comes to mind. I know that, you know, Barack Obama went on "Saturday Night Live," though I didn't think he was particularly funny on it.


D'ELIA: I think that Paul Ryan - that's something that Paul Ryan could do. I think maybe if he went on "The Daily Show" or "The Colbert Report," a lot of kids our age get their news from those sources.

GEE: So who knows? Maybe the debate about the national budget will move from Tampa to Comedy Central.

For NPR News, I'm Robyn Gee.

BLOCK: That story was produced by Youth Radio.

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