Paul Ryan’s rise to the speakership may have been accidental, but it’s the latest—and most prominent—example of the GOP’s youth movement becoming the face of the party.
At 45, Ryan is the youngest speaker since the 19th century. And his ascendance comes just as the Republican Party is trying to rebrand itself ahead of the 2016 election as a party for change rather than the destination for aging social conservatives.
“What we are trying to do is show the American people that we are the future. We are the ones trying to build a sustainable government. We are trying to get our entitlement programs under control and trying to get our debt under control, because if we don’t, that is all going to fall on my generation,” said Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a 35-year-old Republican from Florida who emerged as a face of the party earlier this year when he delivered a response to the president’s State of the Union in Spanish.
On the campaign trail, Republicans have a host of young candidates vying to be the foil to Hillary Clinton. There are 44-year-old Ted Cruz and 44-year-old Marco Rubio. Rather than duck questions of experience, Rubio has embraced his youth as a core tenet of his campaign. On paper, the story of the son of Cuban immigrants and his affinity for hip hop appears to be just the kind of boost the party needs to gain the attention of a younger crowd. The senator often jokes about his age in his stump speech.