August 30th, 2012
09:00 AM ET

'Gen Xer' Paul Ryan takes up GOP torch, makes case to young voters

By Halimah Abdullah and Allison Brennan, CNN

Tampa (CNN) - Paul Ryan symbolizes for many Republicans of his generation a passing of the torch and a call to embrace the Reagan-era principles that appealed so strongly to young voters in the 1980s.

The Wisconsin congressman evoked both when he took the stage on Wednesday night and delivered a prime-time acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention that skewered what the GOP sees as President Barack Obama's failed economic policies.

With Ryan, 42, holding down the No. 2 spot, the ticket hopes to strengthen his Generation X demographic ahead of November and broaden the campaign's appeal to a wealth of younger voters, a much more challenging prospect.

During his speech, Ryan spoke directly to young voters' economic concerns.

"Millions of young Americans have graduated from college during the Obama presidency, ready to use their gifts and get moving in life. Half of them can't find the work they studied for, or any work at all," Ryan told the crowd. "So here's the question: Without a change in leadership, why would the next four years be any different from the last four years?"

The first Gen Xers were eligible to vote for Ronald Reagan's second term at the height of his popularity and his conservative dogma. Younger voters for Reagan, the oldest U.S. president ever inaugurated, were among his strongest supporters.

It was not known then that Reagan's political aura and his mantra for smaller government and lower taxes would endure well into the next century. Nostalgia for Reagan is powerful. His views remain a litmus test for Republicans seeking national office.

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