BEREA — A noticeably younger crowd filled the Lou Higgins Center on Wednesday at Baldwin Wallace University as Republican vice presidential candidate U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan addressed supporters.
Ryan spoke at the Westlake Recreation Center last month to thousands of Ohioans, many of whom were older voters. The stop was one of many Ohio visits, including one in Youngstown on Saturday.
On Wednesday, Ryan was joined by Condoleezza Rice, former secretary of state, and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Cincinnati. All stressed the importance of early voting and touted Mitt Romney and Ryan’s budget plan.
“We are at a crossroads because we cannot continue to spend more than we can pay back,” Rice told the cheering crowd.
Jeff Jackson, a 22-year-old BW student, was one of many college students who attended the speech because of the proximity to the college. Many of his friends were curious to see what Ryan had to say, especially after Tuesday night’s presidential debate.
“It was kind of an experience for me, something to see,” he said.
Jackson said he will vote for GOP presidential nominee Romney in November. Jackson will be graduating with a master’s in business administration in accounting and finance from the university next year, but he is worried about a loss of jobs and hopes a new president will be able to solve the crisis with a bipartisan effort.
Jackson is one of many younger voters pulling for the Romney/Ryan ticket, although the party is still struggling to garner support from that age group.
According to a survey from the Harvard University Institute of Politics, 18- to 29-year-olds support President Barack Obama by a 19-percentage point margin, with 55 percent of young adult “likely” voters choosing Obama and 36 percent picking Romney.
But those voters are less likely to go to the polls, said the same study.
Roughly 65 percent of the 18- to 29-year-olds favoring Romney said they will “definitely” vote this fall. Only 55 percent of Obama supporters in the same age bracket said they definitely would make it to the polls.
Ryan tried to sway more college students to vote Republican by selling Romney’s job creation plan during Wednesday’s speech.
“Young people have no opportunities,” he told the crowd.
According to Ryan, half of the nation’s college students are unemployed or not working in sectors they were trained in, a problem he blamed on the failings of Obama’s policies.
He also appealed to female voters, saying that the poverty rate among women is the “highest rate in years.”
Ryan said 26 million women are at the poverty level, with 5.5 million struggling to find work.
The U.S. unemployment rate was just below 8 percent in September, a decline from the 9.9 percent national unemployment rate Obama inherited when took office in November 2009.
Ryan said that the unemployment rate is much higher than the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has recorded, and Republican politicians have said the decline of unemployment has been too slow.
“If we counted all these people who stopped looking for work, the unemployment rate would be closer to 11 percent,” Ryan said.
Job creation is one of the most important issues in this election, former schoolteacher Joan DeGrant said.
DeGrant lives in Florida, another key swing state, but has been visiting relatives in Ohio.
A Romney supporter, DeGrant said Florida is a mix of Republican and Democratic voters. She was a registered independent until recently when she switched to Republican, but she has never voted Democrat.
“I hope it goes (Republican),” DeGrant said of Ohio. “It’s fun to be here in the middle of all this.”
During his speech, Ryan also praised Romney for his performance in Tuesday’s debate against Obama.
“We were able to cut through the clutter of all these 30-second attack ads, and we have a leader,” Ryan said. “We saw a president not offering a single idea on how to turn this economy around.”
Elyria resident Christopher Best watched Tuesday’s debate and also has attended several of Romney and Ryan’s speeches in Lorain and Cuyahoga counties. Best admitted that as a Republican he’s biased, but he believed Romney performed well in the debate.
“I don’t think there was a clear winner,” he said. “It was a good debate.”
Retired schoolteacher Tom Arukemeyer, of Strongsville, was less sure.
“I thought there was a lot of repetition … from both candidates,” he said. “I haven’t made up my mind yet.”
Contact Chelsea Miller at (440) 329-7123 or firstname.lastname@example.org.