Ryan Pick Targets Key Demographic

A staggering 51 percent of those who graduated from college since 2006 don't have a full-time job, according to a recent study.  Ironically, these are the same voters who mobbed the polls for Obama in 2008, giving him a significant part of his winning margin.

Mitt Romney could have gone black, Hispanic, or female with his vice presidential pick.  Instead, he did something smarter.  He went young.

The Paul Ryan pick was a naked bid for the votes of the Survivor Generation -- college grads under 40 whose goals are no longer those of their parents, who sought to thrive.  Many of these young people now live from month to month, hoping merely to survive.

Normally, they are unreachable for the GOP, which hasn't made a serious bid for their votes, much less their attention, in years.  But with Ryan at his side, Romney will be able to do just that.  The Ryan pick is not mainly about shoring up Romney's base, although it will be spun that way by the media.  It is about attacking Obama's.

The key to understanding the Paul Ryan VP pick is to look at his age -- 42 -- and his message against the backdrop of the desperation Obama's young 2008 voters now face.

A whopping 66 percent of voters under 30 gave Obama their votes in 2008, making the disparity between young voters and other age groups larger than in any presidential election since exit polling began in 1972.  But now, four years older, many of them have entered their 30s, and a full 50 percent say Obama has failed to change the way Washington works.

Until he picked Paul Ryan this weekend, Mitt Romney had no way of credibly addressing this cohort.  Now, with Ryan at his side, he does.  The Ryan pick was first and foremost a nod to a generation whose problems Obama not only has never truly addressed, but rarely even acknowledges.

Ryan is exactly the guy the right needs to send to talk to them.  He's one of only a handful of politicians in Washington who have a long track record of pushing a credible plan to turn their future around with entitlement reforms that address the well-known economic cliff the under-40s have faced all their lives.

The under-40 generations who were sold on Obama's brand of hope now face a frightening future by just about every economic measure.  And Ryan is better than just about anyone in his party at speaking to the vanishing American dream that they have been educated and trained to pursue, yet may never achieve.

Even the simple tenets of the American dream the generations before them took for granted, like buying a house, are now so out of reach for them that many plan to rent indefinitely.

"I realized that I don't really look at houses like I used to, when we would point out homes and say, 'That can be ours someday,'" Kristi Taylor, 28, told NPR.  "Now, she says, "the idea of homeownership is so vague, it doesn't even strike me as something that's in our future."

But it is far worse than that.  Many live according to a month-to-month mentality, afraid to make even the smallest economic commitment, because they fear losing a job, or never finding one.

These people aren't interested in buying cars, or even renting them, but increasingly want to rent them by the month or the week.  Their survival-driven economic demands are changing the way that businesses like gyms traditionally operate, because they fear making an economic commitment to a contract as short as a year, or even six months.  Cable companies can't sign them to contracts as subscribers -- for them, the risk is too great.

They live, in other words, like the only other generation to face a future as bleak as theirs -- those who lived through the Great Depression.  Worse yet, they have been saddled with crippling federal debt and, after a lifetime of paying Social Security taxes should they ever find a stable job, have little hope of ever collecting it themselves.

Unlike Ryan, Obama has no serious plan for addressing the fiscal entitlement cliff, or even the day-to-day struggles of these young people to find a job.

To succeed, Ryan and Romney don't need to duplicate Obama's success with these voters, which would be nearly impossible.  They need only to chip away at it, to raise the kind of doubts that lead a millennial or Gen Y member who would never vote for a Republican to simply stay home.  If they can pull that off, they may well win.

Follow Tara Servatius on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/TaraServatiusOnline and Twitter at @TaraServatius.

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