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In 2008, the Democrats did something ingenious. They found their first 21st century candidate for the presidency.
No more Al Gores or John Kerrys. No more Clintons. No more Cold War-era fossils. In fact, one of the biggest reasons Barack Obama was able to beat Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democrat primaries was because he created a new brand based on the future. The Obama brand was able to smash the once-omnipotent Clinton brand because the Clinton brand was yesterday’s newspaper while the Obama brand was tomorrow’s.
Obama was the quintessential 21st century candidate: a young, hip, and biracial man with a glamorous wife, adorable young children, and friendships with pop culture icons like Jay-Z. Obama’s campaign was equally 21st century: they used social media to great effect before most people even knew what it was. They were tweeting their followers at Kanye West concerts while John McCain, God love him, was campaigning with smoke signals.
This time, the tables have turned. While Mitt Romney sort of straddles the 20th and 21st centuries, his running mate is most decidedly 21st century. Paul Ryan is 42 years old, making him almost a decade younger than the young whipper-snapper of the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama. He sleeps in his Capitol Hill office like it’s a dorm room. He does the insanely tough workout P90X. He walks around wearing headphones, like NBA stars and Olympic athletes. He is cool.
This matters in a nation that has always been forward-looking, pioneering, innovative, and geared toward the future. Negativity and the past don’t win the big battles for the future. Obama knew that when he crushed the Clinton machine and later, the 20th century GOP machine. This time, the Republicans get it, and they’ve found a dynamic, fearless 21st century guy in Paul Ryan. Even Mitt Romney has become cooler, tougher, looser, and more forward-looking since Ryan joined him on the trail.
Call it The Ryan Effect.
And consider a major piece of early evidence that The Ryan Effect is resonating. Today, John Zogby and his firm JZ Analytics released a poll of 1,117 likely voters taken over the weekend after the Ryan announcement was made. He found that an astonishing 40 percent of the youth vote — those 18 to 19 years old — now support Romney/Ryan. In 2008, a whopping 66 percent of the youth vote went to Obama. This is a major development. Younger voters are disillusioned by Obama’s Chicago-style politicking; they can’t get jobs in the Obama Economy; they’ve got growing concerns about the nation’s debt and how it’ll effect them; and they’re increasingly becoming more libertarian, if not conservative. “They want change,” Zogby said.
Yes, they do. Most of us want change. But we want real change. Not phony Greek columns, “we’re the ones we’ve been waiting for” change, but rather honest change that will restore the nation and the promise of the quintessentially bright American future. After all, that’s what the 21st century should hold for America. And that’s what the Ryan Effect is starting to deliver.