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Shining a Light into the GOP’s Generational Black Hole

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Finding hope in the GOP’s generation black hole might seem daunting.

The Republican’s most recent choice for president lost to voters under 35 by about 22 percent. The candidate before the buttoned-down Mitt Romney, Sen. John McCain, fared worse.

Unless this situation changes, the Republican candidate is likely doomed to repeat this pattern of failure in the next presidential contest in 2016. Researching what makes these young voters tick helps us better understand why they’re just not digging the Grand Old Party. Here is what this generational black hole looks like.

Meet Jared Santos. He and his girlfriend, Alisa, have a two-year-old daughter. Jared is a roofer with a few years of college who earns $57,000 a year.  Alisa works as a concierge at an upscale hotel earning nearly as much as Jared. They live comfortably with a 56-inch HD TV and a boxer dog, but face a lot of bills in a condo the couple recently purchased. Jared drinks Red Bull, has mastered the video game Halo 4 and updates his Facebook page regularly.

Microtargeters put a lot of stock in those variables.  But based simply on his age: Will Jared vote Republican or Democrat?

Jared has no recollection of President Reagan:  Grenada, tax reform, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty or Morning in America did not pierce his pre-adolescent consciousness.  President George H. W. Bush was a nice enough “old white guy,” but he was a loser who broke his promise on taxes.

Usher in the age of President Bill Clinton, a cool and relatively young guy who Jared felt was unfairly bashed by Republicans over an affair. When he termed out, Jared was old enough to vote, but stayed home like so many his age. Neither Vice President Al Gore nor Gov. George W. Bush inspired him.

In 2004, Jared flipped a coin in the voting booth and cast his vote for Bush. He came to regret that vote over the next four years especially with the Hurricane Katrina debacle and a flat-lining economy.

Without a positive GOP presidential role model to relate to, Jared votes for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. Obama talks “brackets” during March Madness, so he’s cool and likeable.  Jared perceives an Obama administration that at least attempts to tackle the problems of people like him.  Republicans often talk about shrinking government, but Jared wants a government that solves his problems; he doesn’t care what size it is.

The last two decades of presidential politics have created this generational black hole for Republicans.

The good news for them is that parties and their candidates can change.  Republicans are right about the size of government, but to compete effectively for Jared Santos’s vote they must become the party of better and smarter government.  If the GOP can make that pivot, nominate the right gal – or guy – and Democrats overreach and fumble, a Republican candidate will lose the under 35 crowd by only 10 percent. A rebound like that should be enough to deliver them the presidency in 2016.

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One Response to Shining a Light into the GOP’s Generational Black Hole

  1. T.J. Zane says:

    Great piece, John… couldn’t agree more. Go Christie! 🙂

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