“So there’s a myth that exists — there’s an adage out there that when you’re young if you vote conservative you don’t have a heart, if you’re old and you vote liberal you don’t have a brain,” College Republican chieftain Alex Schriver told The Daily Caller sitting in a chair in his Capitol Hill office when asked why we should want young people to vote considering the young are often moronic.
“And that is simply not true. Republicans have won the youth vote four times since 1972.”
“They’re not idiots,” Schriver protested, when TheDC pressed the point. “They’re educated voters.”
Agree or disagree, the 23-year-old was ably doing his job, flacking for the importance of the youth vote because he is charged with helping mobilize the young in support of Republicans this fall. And it is a job he takes seriously.
Schriver, who was elected chair of the College Republican National Committee last summer and will serve until 2013, lived a somewhat nomadic childhood, living in California, Washington State, Georgia and Tennessee, where he graduated from high school in 2006. His family owned a chemical company that depended on paper mills.
“Anywhere there’s a paper mill I’ve probably lived,” Schriver quipped.
Schriver says his parents aren’t particularly political and that it was the 9/11 terrorist attacks that compelled him to develop a more serious interest in politics. As a high-schooler in 2004, he volunteered for the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign.
“I had the ‘Flush the Johns’ bumper sticker and the ‘Kerry flip flop’ bumper sticker. That really solidified I think my passion for campaigns,” he said.
At Auburn University his passion for politics deepened. He involved himself in several political races and interned for the CRNC. After working as for a political consulting firm briefly after graduating in 2010, he decided to make a run for the office he now holds.
He decided to run, he explained, because he believes the youth vote is critical and he wanted to help to win it back for the GOP (which is also probably why he doesn’t so easily agree that young people are too often idiots).
But deep down, it is hard not to believe that the real reason someone runs for such an office is because they have long-term political ambitions of their own.
“My focus right now is on the term that I have, you know, getting to November,” he said, giving TheDC the run-around when asked what he wants to do when his term is up and if he wants to be governor one day of his adopted home state, Alabama.
“I’m not necessarily too concerned with what I want to do next. I have a passion for Alabama. I would love to go back there and make a difference in some capacity. What that necessarily is I don’t know. But I can see myself returning to Alabama when this is up.”
A long chain of former CRNC chairmen and executive directors have gone on to do big things in the political arena. Indeed, Schriver lists many of the most notable names in his bio for Politico, where he writes occasionally. From Karl Rove to Grover Norquist, Schriver says he keeps in contact with many of them.
“I’ll tell you one of the most interesting things about my conversations with them is they will always ask how is being a College Republican different from being a College Republican in the ‘70s or ‘80s, how do you recruit members and how is that different?” he said.
“I always tell them that in 2012 being a College Republican may mean the same thing, it’s just a little different. So we still set up a table on campus and recruit members, but instead of signing them up on clipboards, we’re signing them up on iPads.”
But one notable CRNC chairman seemed conspicuously absent from Schriver’s bio: ethically challenged lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Schriver reluctantly admitted that he has been in contact with him since he left the slammer, but noted Casino Jack did not offer him any advice.
Throughout the interview, Schriver steadfastly avoided TheDC’s repeated attempts to get him to say which GOP presidential contender he likes best, but he did admit that he wished Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan was among the candidates who entered the race for the White House.
“Besides the four strong candidates that we have now — anyone of which would make an excellent president — I’m partial to Paul Ryan,” Schriver said. “Paul’s a fraternity brother of mine so I’ve always liked that.”
This election cycle, Schriver says the CNRC is ready to mobilize the youth vote.
“What I think makes us unique is our ability to get on the election side of things,” he explained.
“As a 527 we can actually get involved and recruit volunteers to go out there and knock on doors and make phone calls for Republican candidates. And the cornerstone of that is our field program. So we recruit, train and mobilize college Republicans around the country by sending out paid field staff to competitive states.”
“This year we’ll have 60 field staff,” he continued. “It will be the largest in the organizations history and we’ll be able to be all across the country helping Republican candidates up and down the ballot.”
Asked whether the GOP has to soften its message on social issues in order to woo young voters, Schriver said young people don’t primarily care about social issues.
“Harvard Institute of Politics study says 74 percent of young people’s number one issue is jobs and the economy,” he said. “Three quarters of young people are voting on issues that our party wins on. And that’s what we have to go on campus and talk about.”
To reach their demographic, the CRNC has sought out young voters where they gather, including airing ads during shows like the “Jersey Shore.”
“You go after them. That’s what Obama did so well in 2008,” Schriver explained. “We know our voters aren’t watching ‘Hannity’ at 8 o’clock or at 5 o’clock on Fox News. We know they’re watching Comedy Central at 10 o’clock in State College Pennsylvania. We know they’re watching MTV at 11 o’clock at night in Tallahassee, Florida. So when we want to go win swing states lets go after our voters where we know they are: online, on campus, and on TV on the programming that they watch.”
While professionally Schriver is focused on pushing an economic message, personally he says education issues animate him most.
“If I go 100 more rounds with the teachers union and I’m 70 years old and on the last one I win, I’ll die a happy person,” he said. “I think they are what is restricting education in this country. I think they are what is holding our education system back.”
Is there anything that Schriver gives President Obama credit for?
“I like the fact that he has waken up our side of the aisle to the importance of the youth vote,” he quipped after a long, contemplative pause.
Schriver says he spends 60 percent of his time fundraising — compared to 20 percent doing communications work and 20 percent doing administrative work. So TheDC asked Schriver what he listens to when he is on the road in a warm Southern state with the top of his rented convertible down on his way to the fancy house of a fat cat donor.
“I’m from Alabama so it’s always country,” he said. “And I love David Nail.”
Not Sweet Home Alabama?
“That could be it,” he replied, laughing. “Sweet home Alabama. It has got to be something country. And I can guarantee you I’m not renting a convertible.”