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GOP must change focus to win young voters

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Date published: 6/12/2013


--The College Republican National Committee released a report last week that provides a valuable perspective for GOP leaders, and for the party's rank-and-file, to consider ahead of future elections.

The advice isn't revelatory; it's simple and rational, informed by basic math, social change, and civil discourse. It is, however, a little late for Virginia Republicans preparing for the statewide November election.

Candidates Ken Cuccinelli, E.W. Jackson, and Mark Obenshain, nominated at the party's convention last month for the three top state offices, are saddled with much of the baggage that these young conservatives have called on the party to shed. That's especially true for Jackson, who has described gay people as "sick" and "perverted," and for Cuccinelli, who has cast their relationships as "intrinsically wrong."

Still, each of the three has validated one of the primary points in the report: The Republican Party needs candidates who focus on crafting smart economic policies rather than divisive social issues.

The Republican ticket is collectively trying to emphasize job creation and economic opportunities across the commonwealth, instead of campaigning on the extreme social positions that define their records and alienate key sections of the electorate. Like young voters.

The report, at crnc.org, aims to boost the GOP's ability to attract "millennials"--voters like myself, born in or after 1980--and demonstrates how the party's recent exclusionary strategy is counterproductive to long-term viability.

"It is not that young voters are enamored of the Democratic Party," the report noted. "They simply dislike the Republican Party more."

That status is almost entirely self-inflicted and is compounded by party members who've made their campaigns more often about what they oppose and how they express themselves than by smart policies that they support.

There is no utility, for example, in House Republicans holding more than 30 votes over three years to repeal President Barack Obama's biggest domestic legislation, the Affordable Care Act, when the Democratic Senate and Obama himself won't go along. As the report details, despite concerns about the unknown effects of the health insurance overhaul, a majority of younger voters still prefer Democrats to handle health care-related reform because at least they're trying.

Last fall, young voters made up 19 percent of the entire electorate. Sixty percent of those voters supported the Democratic president. In 2008, young voters made up 18 percent of the electorate, and two-thirds of them supported Obama.

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