Swing State Voices: Paul Ryan Makes GOP Ticket More Appealing to Florida Students
by Margaret Beck | University of Florida
President Obama’s 2008 election undeniably hinged upon the successful motivation of a record number of college-age voters who flocked to the polls, fueled by promising visions of hope and change. While it’s widely known that the student demographic typically votes Democrat, Democrats can boast of significantly increasing the amount of young people who showed up at the polls.
Recent polls, however, have revealed that Obama can no longer take the student vote for granted. The same army of students the Obama campaign mobilized in 2008 has had nearly four years to see the results of their choice. Disenfranchised students have seen little change and have less hope in government; graduates who are still unemployed or underemployed have seen little improvement in job opportunities. Students’ frustrations are reflected in polls that show Romney is winning over a telling percent of the youth vote. While 66% of the college-aged young adults voted for Obama in 2008, only 49% support him now, according to this week’s Zogby poll. Though mobilizing a record number of young voters undoubtedly swayed the 2008 election in Obama’s favor, these same voters, no longer fueled by unfulfilled rhetoric, may return to haunt Obama’s campaign in November.
A successful campaign often relies on capturing the electoral votes of swing states, also dubbed “purple states” for their ability to lean Democrat or Republican. Since the infamous 2000 election, Florida has regularly appeared among the most important swing states, and with 29 electoral votes up for grabs it is the largest. In 2008, Florida students followed the national trend and overwhelmingly voted for then-Senator Obama. Though voters under age 29 make up only 17% of all registered voters in Florida, past elections have taught us that every vote counts. The 2008 election was proof of the power of the youth vote.
A recent Harvard poll indicated that only 20% of students feel that government spending will improve the economy, a statistic that does not bode well for the Democratic Party. It seems that the November election will be more of a referendum on the future of the economy rather than a social statement, as it has been for students in the past.
Students in the swing state of Florida seem to be in line with the national trend. Certainly, Ryan’s youthful appeal makes the Republican ticket more relatable to young voters. With most college students concerned about the future of the economy, Ryan’s bold, innovative plans for economic reform appeal to young voters.
Lauren Levy, a 2011 alumnus of the University of Florida, expresses a more favorable opinion of the Romney ticket now: “Mitt Romney was my last choice on the ticket. However, with the introduction of Ryan, I feel we have a fighting chance to implement fiscal policies that will reduce the debt while keeping a safety net for those genuinely struggling. As Chair of the House Budget Committee, I think he’s the only one who truly knows what needs to be slashed from the budget.”
Though Ryan appeals to young Floridians, Florida hosts a large population of retired seniors who are distrustful of Ryan’s plans for entitlement reform, making for an interesting dynamic in Florida’s polls. Despite this, Ryan seems to reflect favorably on the Romney campaign, with statistics from SurveyUSA suggesting that 57% of Floridians were “more likely” to vote for Romney after the Ryan announcement. Interestingly enough, both young and older voters showed increased support of the Romney-Ryan ticket. The Romney campaign already seems to be addressing the issue of “Mediscare,” with Paul Ryan’s campaign stop Saturday in The Villages, a retirement haven near Orlando.
Disillusioned, jobless college students can only tip the scales in Romney’s favor, especially if their renewed apathy causes them not to show up at the polls at all. According to a poll conducted by Rock the Vote in 2010, 61% of young Florida voters felt more cynical towards the political process than they did in 2008. If Paul Ryan’s earnest ideals and commonsense economic reform can win over young Floridians like Levy, the Romney campaign will capitalize on what many college students consider a letdown by President Obama. In turn, if the Romney campaign can succeed in assuring seniors that cuts to Medicare will be sensible and still ensure a comfortable retirement, it is entirely possible that Romney will win Florida.
During President Obama’s time in office, the national debt has grown by nearly $5 trillion. Young adults want a better future than that. Even the most entitlement-loving members of our nation have to agree that entitlement reform is necessary in order to curb the national debt. The election is quickly turning into a referendum on whose plan is better for the economic future of our country. Paul Ryan’s boyish charm allows young adults to better relate with the Republican ticket, and his social and economic policies resound well with conservatives who may have been skeptical that Romney was not conservative enough.
Florida students want real change, not another dose of campaign rhetoric.Margaret Beck, a NGJ Voices Contributor and recent University of Florida graduate, is pursuing a joint MD/JD program. She writes with a conservative voice on medical issues, politics, and Middle East affairs.