The trick for Romney isn’t to pander to young voters. He’ll never beat Obama and the Democrats at that game. But Romney can turn things to his advantage. He needs to contrast himself with Obama in ways that highlight Obama’s desperate need to seem cool to compensate for his failures. Nothing turns off young people more than pretending to be “down with the youth” as it were.
Indeed, Romney should take some lessons from Ron Paul on this score. There is quite literally nothing hip or cool about Paul, but of all the politicians this cycle, he probably generates the most excitement among young voters. Now, part of Paul’s appeal Romney cannot copy. Paul’s esoteric and conspiratorial theorizing about the Federal Reserve, for instance, won’t help Romney in the general election.
But what Romney can learn from the 76-year-old Paul is the appeal of authentic nerd chic. It’s cool to be really into your issues and interests. And one thing that distinguishes the millennial generation is an understanding that nerds — Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, et al. — get things done, and get rich as a result.