From an AP story in yesterday's Seattle-PI:
CHICAGO -- Ladarius Beal is a rarity on the South Side of Chicago.
He is a young Republican, a suit-and-tie-wearing island of conservatism in a sea of Democrats, many of them supporters of presidential candidate Barack Obama, who lives nearby.
The 17-year-old's top political issues have their roots in his evangelical Christian faith: he adamantly opposes abortion and believes in marriage as a union between only "one man and one woman." And one day, he hopes to vote for Mike Huckabee, the Baptist preacher and former Arkansas governor who dropped out of the presidential race when John McCain secured the GOP nomination, but vowed to build upon his conservative voting base.
"He does not let anybody make him feel ashamed about what he believes. And that's how I am," says Beal, a junior at Chicago's Julian High School, where he's known as the "preacher" for regularly riling up fellow students with his views.
He is a young black man living amid the "Obama-mania" that has overtaken not just his predominantly black high school, but college campuses across the country. He is among the up-and-coming Republicans who stand proudly against the tide, even if they are in a distinct minority.
An AP analysis also found that a notable number of young Republicans, like Beal, have conservative leanings. The analysis of exit poll data from 2008 presidential primaries found that Republican voters younger than age 30 tended to be more conservative than their elders:
- A third of those young Republicans oppose abortion in all circumstances, compared with 23 percent of Republicans age 30 and older.
- They also were 10 percentage points more likely to say the top quality in a candidate is that he or she "shares my values." Older Republicans were more likely to cite experience.
- And young Republicans were nine percentage points more likely than older Republicans to vote for Huckabee.
Overall, the analysis found that those in the 18- to 24-year old Republican bracket were the most conservative young voters.
Tarah Goulding, a 20-year-old senior at the University of Texas, is among them. She won't say which candidate she voted for in the Texas Republican primary, but says she's found things to like about Huckabee, Ron Paul and McCain.
"As a young person who wants to admire a president as a moral leader, I respect that Senator McCain doesn't just tell people what they want to hear," says Goulding, who's been an active Republican since age 14 and is now a precinct leader in her county.
That attitude makes her unusual among her college peers, says political science professor Michael McDonald, who thinks McCain's support of the Iraq war will make it difficult for him to appeal to young people's trademark sense of idealism.
"Talking about finishing the job - these sorts of things are not going to sit well with young people," McDonald says, noting the strong anti-war sentiment on campuses, including his own George Mason University.
In general, he and others say it is a difficult time for Republicans to try to reach out to young voters - so some wonder how much McCain will try.
Since the early 1990s, researchers at the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press have found that Republican ranks - young people included - are declining. Of 18- to 29-year-old registered voters who took part in Pew polls, about a third identified as Republican in 1992, compared with about a quarter in recent years.
Meanwhile, the percentage of young people in that bracket who identified as Democrats has risen from 29 percent to 34 percent in that same time frame.
Researchers at Harvard's Institute of Politics say they saw a slight increase in young people who identified as Republican after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but also have seen that support dissipate.
Many young Republicans don't dispute their minority status.
"The stories you hear about how college students are Obama maniacs are absolutely accurate," says Ellen Dargie, a 19-year-old sophomore who heads a Republican student group at Georgetown University. "But I think people really underestimate Republican youth."
She also thinks some young Democrats will switch allegiance after college - "as people grow older and see where their money is going and they start living with some of these policies."
"I think it's just a matter of time," she says.
That's what happened to Mike Murphy, a 27-year-old information technology technician in suburban Chicago. He leaned Democratic in high school, but is now a conservative Republican.
"It really made me mad that the government felt the need to take so much of my hard-earned money," Murphy says. Besides a wish for lower taxes, he counts national security and a tough immigration policy among his biggest priorities.
"I am not like any of these Hollywood Michael Moore-types from the Democratic party," he says.
Still others believe hope for luring young Republican recruits will come with more inclusiveness.
"Republicans can often be stereotyped as rich, white, old men. But that is not the Republican party of today," says Brendan Kownacki, a 22-year-old Republican who is a media strategist and consultant in Washington, D.C.
"There can be pro-choice Republicans, pro-environment Republicans, fiscal moderates, fiscal conservatives, or even gay Republicans."
Allen Otto, a 20-year-old Republican who is gay, agrees. He supports same-sex marriage, but isn't too fussed about his party's stance against it.
"There are many, many more issues in the political arena that mean a lot more to this country than gay marriage," says Otto, a student at Trinity University in San Antonio. A self-described conservative, he's supporting McCain.
Back in Chicago, however, Beal says he's just as glad he won't be old enough to vote in November. He'd rather have a chance to vote for Huckabee in 2012.
Though young black people are very unlikely to identify as Republican, according to the AP analysis, Beal seems almost inspired by his loner status, sharing his views with his Democratic peers - whether they want to hear them or not.
"Believe me," says social studies teacher Gwen Dunbar, "everywhere Ladarius goes, he's remembered."