Rudy Giuliani has told a Florida television station that he believes Sen. Marco Rubio would be Mitt Romney’s best pick for his running mate. Giuliani made it clear that he is comfortable with all of the potential VP candidates being widely talked about. However, he favors Rubio, citing his believe that the Florida Senator would help attract young voters.
The youth vote angle is one I haven’t heard mentioned in this context. There’s no doubt that the so-called millennial voters are an important part of President Obama’s coalition. In 2008, they favored him over John McCain by a 2-1 ratio. Moreover, they are expected to make up 18 percent of the electorate in the upcoming election.
But the millennials are probably the easiest part of the Obama coalition to peel off. For one thing, they are by definition less set in their voting ways than other groups. And their commitment to Obama is less ideological than that of, say, African-Americans or Jews, though there is an ideological component that has mostly to do with social issues.
Most importantly, millennials have fared horribly under Obama. According to a study by Rutgers University, only half of those who graduated college since 2006 have full-time jobs. The study reports that college graduates are increasingly settling for positions that in the past would have gone to people without degrees, while people in their 30s are occupying jobs once held by new graduates.
Meanwhile, a survey by Twentysomething, Inc. found that 85 percent of college seniors in 2012 planned to move back into their parents’ house after graduating. And a December 2011 study by Pew Research Center found that 53 percent of 18 to 24 year olds are living with, or have lived with, their parents during the past few years.
Not surprisingly, then, Gallup’s tracking poll shows that only 51 percent of 18 to 29 year olds approved of Obama’s performance in July 2012. This represents a 19 point drop from 2009.
This represents a huge opportunity for Republicans. But the Republican brand is extremely weak among millennials. Therefore, we shouldn’t expect Obama’s decline in approval with this group to be as fully reflected when they vote as it would be with other groups. These are voters that Romney will have to win over; otherwise the most he can hope for is that they won’t turn out to the extent they did four years ago.
Would Rubio help Romney make the sale? If any running mate can, he’s the one. Not just because Rubio is young himself, but because his message of optimism — different ideologically but not in tone from Obama’s 2008 message — may resonate with millennials.
On the other hand, these races are always ultimately about the candidate at the top of the ticket; it’s foolish to think of the vice presidential candidate as “game-changer.” Rubio’s impact with millennials, Hispanics, and any other group or state is likely to be marginal, just as with all of the others on Romney’s list.
In the end, I think the selection still boils down to whether Romney wants a safe, vanilla running mate who will do him no harm. If so, then Rubio probably isn’t his man. But if Rubio can survive rigorous vetting, then Guiliani may be correct in considering him the best man in a strong field.