TAMPA, Fla. — Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan may have sounded many of themes that other speakers have throughout this convention: Government waste, exploding debt, taxpayer handouts.
But his speech — which, with its blend of personality and nods to policy went off very well in the Tampa Bay Times Forum — also was an appeal to younger voters, the very ones who have remained among the most loyal demographic groups supportive of President Obama in polling over the span of his term.
“College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life,” he said. “Everyone who feels stuck in the Obama economy is right to focus on the here and now.”
At 42, Ryan is a generation removed from Romney, a fact that he underscored at several points in his speech, often to the point of irreverence. He’s the first candidate on a major ticket born since 1970, part of Generation X who is trying to also appeal to Generation Y, or the group of “millennials” born in the two decades before the turn of the century.
“There are the songs on his iPod, which I’ve heard on the campaign bus and on many hotel elevators. He actually urged me to play some of these songs at campaign rallies. I said, I hope it’s not a deal-breaker, Mitt, but my playlist starts with AC/DC, and ends with Zeppelin.”
He also made multiple references to his biography, including the menial jobs he had while growing up in Wisconsin and going to school in Ohio.
“When I was waiting tables, washing dishes, or mowing lawns for money, I never thought of myself as stuck in some situation in life,” he said. “I was on my own path, my own journey, an American journey where I could think for myself, define happiness for myself.”
Ryan echoed earlier themes of the convention, that despite Obama’s historic and inspirational presidential run in 2008, the reality of the last four years has been one of disappointment.
“It all started off with stirring speeches. Greek columns, the thrill of something new. Now all that’s left is a presidency adrift, surviving on slogans that already seem tired, grasping at a moment that has already passed, like a ship trying to sail on yesterday’s wind.”
A protester near a print press area tried to interrupt the speech, as she waved a pink sign with the words “vagina” on it, and shouted, “My body. My choice.” But the crowd near her started chanting, “USA” as she was escorted out of the arena.
What remains to be seen is if Ryan can draw in the excitement of younger voters had in 2008, primarily for Obama. The convention is an opportunity to introduce him to a national audience, but it’s the younger viewers who have to be watching. Ratings for the first night of the convention showed that two-thirds of viewers were over age 55.