The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Tuesday March 28th

Republicans harness youth at convention

Amid the speeches and festivities, the Republican Party is aiming to use its national convention to frame its candidates and important issues more clearly for voters.

The convention, which began Monday and wraps up today, was projected to attract an estimated 50,000 people to Tampa, Fla.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will accept his nomination tonight, after two days of speeches by major party figures and rising Republican stars.

“It’s incredibly high-energy. People are dancing, moving around, screaming and just having a great time,” said George Thorne, a member of UNC College Republicans who traveled to Tampa for the convention. “I’m incredibly excited to be here.”

Michael MacKuen, a political science professor at UNC, said that on average, Republican presidential candidates receive a temporary bump of five points in the polls after their party’s nominating convention.

But parties also use conventions to introduce candidates to voters and highlight pivotal issues, which can sometimes have lasting effects, MacKuen said.

“For persuadable voters, as long as they’re making a decision based on the recession and deficit, and whether he’s a good family man, it will work to Romney’s advantage,” he said.

Greg Steele, chairman of the N.C. Federation of College Republicans, said he believes another important goal of the convention is to capture youth voters.

“A big part of the convention is all the conversation that’s happening, not just in the ballroom, but outside in the hotels,” Steele said.

“Young people bring something unique to the table. That’s why they want us there. Older generations understand what we need, but they’re not living it.”

In the past two presidential elections, the majority of youth voters have voted Democratic. In 2008, President Barack Obama captured the youth vote with a 66 percent majority — marking the largest disparity between young voters and other age groups since exit polling began in 1972.

But Kenan Drum, chairman of UNC Students for Romney, said in an email that the economy will be a deciding factor for young voters.

“Gov. Romney is proposing real solutions to the tough economic challenges in this country today — solutions that will provide more and better job opportunities for the young electorate,” he said.

Steele also said the youth electorate will be influenced by the state of the economy.

“I think Romney is poised to absolutely get a lot of the youth vote who would not traditionally vote Republican,” Steele said. “His message is great for young people — cutting taxes, spending, making government more sustainable.”

Steele said he felt confident the convention will result in a “great surge,” especially after speeches delivered by figures including Ann Romney, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the vice-presidential nominee.

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