I am not enough of a political scientist to be sure, but recent conversations I have had with some Harvard undergrads have led me to a conjecture: It was largely noneconomic issues. These particular students told me they preferred the lower tax, more limited government, freer trade views of McCain, but they were voting for Obama on the basis of foreign policy and especially social issues like abortion. The choice of a social conservative like Palin as veep really turned them off McCain. So what does the Republican Party need to do to get the youth vote back? If these Harvard students are typical (and perhaps they are not, as Harvard students are hardly a random sample), the party needs to scale back its social conservatism. Put simply, it needs to become a party for moderate and mainstream libertarians.
I agree that the new GOP should move away from the theocrats known as social conservatives but let’s be honest – George W. Bush and the 2008 vintage of John McCain were NOT pushing a serious agenda of less government spending. They did push the agenda of the free lunch – tax deferrals disguised as tax “cuts”. Why would a college student vote for anyone who is shifting the long-run tax burden away from old farts like me and towards them?