Paul Ryan Thinks 20-Something Women Should Give The GOP A Chance

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images.
House Speaker Paul Ryan knows the challenges the GOP faces in attracting young voters.

In 2012, an estimated 60% of voters under 30 cast their ballots for President Barack Obama in the polls. Just 15% of millennials identify as conservative, according to Pew Research. Refinery29/ABC News' recent Vote Your Values poll found a similar trend among millennial women, 16% of whom identify as Republicans.

But, as the nation's largest generation, millennials are on track to be a major force this year and in elections to come. So, it shouldn't be surprising to see GOP party leaders ramp up efforts to bring those voters into the fold.

Ryan, the youngest House speaker in 150 years, took the GOP's outreach to Georgetown University this week, where he opened his remarks with one very basic question: "Why support Republicans?"

The question was met with laughter from the audience. He went on to argue that, while Democrats may promote lofty ideas, he believes the Republican party is better at effecting change.

Ryan's speech, billed as a "Millennial Town Hall," strayed away from some of the hot-button topics and policies dominating headlines and the campaign trail. He didn't address, for example, LGBTQ discrimination laws in North Carolina and other states. Instead, he talked health care and student debt. Ryan spoke at length about national debt and tax reform, saying to "be wary of empty promises that aren't paid for."

Many of the issues Ryan mentioned seemed more in line with the ideals that some might commonly associate with Democrats. He spoke about an "open, diverse, dynamic" country, where "the condition of your birth does not determine the outcome of your life." Ryan addressed healthcare access, and the fact that millions of Americans are in prison despite that many aren't "hardened criminals" and deserve a second chance. He stressed his belief that government should allow citizens to make their own decisions, stating that, "It is not supposed to manage people, but to serve them."

"I went into politics because I wanted to solve problems," Ryan told the crowd, noting that he first ran for Congress when he was 28. He said he was inspired to enter public service following his family's experience relying on Social Security after his father died.

Ryan was frank about the party's shortcomings when it comes to appealing to young voters. He said that, "Republicans lose personality contests," though he encouraged the audience to consider more than identity politics when deciding what policies (and candidates) to support.

"The America that you want is the America that we want," he said.

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