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Competing for the youth vote

In the 2008 presidential election, there was a striking age gap -- Obama not only beat McCain among younger voters, he did so by a two-to-one margin. Of all the various constituencies, some of Obama's strongest support came from voters under 30.

But with younger workers struggling, and political disillusionment not uncommon, Mitt Romney thinks he can close the gap, at least a little, and perform far better than the McCain/Palin ticket did four years ago. Indeed, remember this clip from several weeks ago, in which Romney said, "I don't see how a young American can vote for, well, can vote for a Democrat"?

Team Romney is still hard at work trying to rally the youth vote, and hosted a conference call this morning on the issue, featuring, among others, Hank Brown, a 72-year-old former Republican senator who also served as the president of the University of Colorado.

Alex Seitz-Wald reports that the Romney campaign couldn't come up with much to say.

In its effort to reach out to young voters, Mitt Romney's campaign held a conference call with reporters today to discuss what the presumed GOP nominee thinks of President Obama's record on the youth (not much) and what they have to offer young Americans (also not much). [...]

So, if Obama was so bad, what would a Romney presidency do instead? The septuagenarian Brown, joined on the call by Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) and College Republican National Committee Chairman Alex Schriver, didn't really have much to offer.

The problem for the presumptive Republican nominee is that so much of his policy agenda makes it difficult to do meaningful outreach to younger voters.

We know, for example, that Romney wants to eliminate the entirety of the Affordable Care Act, which will immediately take health care coverage away from millions of young people aged 18 to 25, who can now remain on their family plans thanks to the reform law. "Vote for me and I promise to take away your health insurance" is not a winning message.

We also know that Romney wants to scrap college aid for millions of younger Americans. For this constituency, it's one of the single biggest issues on the policy landscape, and the former governor's message to them is, "Tough luck."

Making matters slightly worse, Democrats streamlined the student loan system in 2010, eliminating needless subsidies to banks, and redirecting the savings to help cover tuition costs. Romney opposes those reforms.

Romney's pitch to young people is that he'll tackle debt reduction, which is supposed to be a big draw, but even here, the presumptive Republican nominee hasn't said how he'll lower the debt, and has in fact vowed to make it worse with more tax cuts.

And yet, there was the conference call this morning. Seitz-Wald concluded, "In all, the call mentioned not a single positive program to help young people directly, offering only attacks on Obama and generalized prescriptions for the entire economy."