“I think young people could play a very central role in creating a more moderate and more pragmatic Republican notion of conservatism that is about change, but about change that is more consistent with traditional Republican principles,” says Professor Michael Delli Carpini, an expert on generational differences in politics at the University of Pennsylvania. “The Republican party has to figure out what it’s going to be, and you can see that battle taking place right now ... and young people can be very influential in [that debate].”
With only about a third of the under-30 crowd voting Republican in the Nov. 4 election, and Democrats opening up a 19 point lead in party affiliation among 18 to 29-year-olds, the GOP has rapidly – and, some in the party fear, irreversibly – lost ground among younger voters.
Mr. Obama’s unique political personality played a huge role in that transformation.
But key among many of its perceived faults, the Bush administration’s policies presented especially younger conservatives with the contradictions of a party that “ran against tax-and-spend Democrats and became cut-tax-and-still-spend Republicans,” says Wil Westholm, a 30-something Republican in Tucson, Ariz. It didn’t help that 25 percent of young people reported being contacted by the Obama campaign while only 13 percent said the McCain campaign courted them, according to the Pew Research Center.
GOP needs to attract younger voters