Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's choice of a much younger running mate has at least one pollster suggesting the youth voters who flocked to vote for President Obama in 2008 will be more open to voting for the GOP ticket this time around.
At 42, vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan is the same age as Romney's oldest son, the first member of the post-baby boom Generation X on a presidential ticket and the youngest person on either ticket. While that may enhance the appeal of the Republican ticket among younger voters, it's not clear whether that 20-something vote will even be as big as it was four years ago.
Still, pollster John Zogby, who surveyed voters over the weekend while Romney was first introducing Ryan as his running mate, found 41 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 29 were supporting Romney. Though Obama still led with 49 percent, that's a far greater share of the youth vote than Romney had in any other recent poll.
"It could be the Paul Ryan factor," Zogby told The Washington Examiner. "A group of young people having a difficult time getting started in life, knowing they are saddled with both huge national debt and huge personal student loan debt and no relief they sense coming from Obama."
Obama won 66 percent of the youth vote in the 2008 election, support that put him over the top in the swing states of North Carolina and Indiana.
Few recent polls show Obama garnering the same high level of support from young voters, given the sour economy and higher student debt levels. Gallup last month showed Obama with 57 percent of the youth vote and Romney with 35 percent. Those numbers have remained steady since at least April.
"At least so far in this campaign, we've seen no change," Gallup Editor in Chief Frank Newport told The Examiner. "The more important issue is turnout."
Newport said it's difficult to estimate how many young voters may turn out in November, but a Harvard University study earlier this year found only 35 percent of young Democratic voters planned to vote this year, down from 51 percent in 2008.
In 2010 congressional elections, just 21 percent of young people bothered to vote, though turnout is usually lower across the board in nonpresidential elections.
"We have seen some evidence in national voting that those younger voters are a bit less involved and less excited this year than they were in the past," said Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll. "If that leads to a decline in voter turnout, then that is a net loss for Obama because he did well with those voters four years ago."
Ryan has gravitated toward young voters on the campaign trail, and his message about fixing the economy, creating jobs and reducing the deficit for the benefit of future generations is tailor-made for young people looking for jobs and starting families.
Ryan also has a lot in common with young voters, stopping at the Iowa State Fair recently to talk to a young father pushing a stroller. When the baby tossed out the pacifier, Ryan could relate.
"My kids always spit them out on the ground," Ryan told the man. "Get a little Velcro strap."