Could the best cure for the GOP's diversity deficit be a young female leader? The first woman could be elected to lead the College Republican National Committee.
Alexandra Smith, the organization's co-chairman, announced her candidacy this week and immediately launched a website, Facebook, Twitter handle and established her own hashtag - #SmithStrong - to galvanize her growing nationwide support.
The 23-year-old Pennsylvania native told The Daily Caller she's already racked up committments from 30 state College Republican chairs to take the top spot at the organization's June convention.
Such a shake up seems especially significant given Republicans' waning popularity among young people and women after the party's failed bid for the presidency.
In the organization's 120-year history, a woman only ever served as national chair to fill an unexpected vacancy.
Smith would be the first woman formally elected to the position by the national board.
The organization boasts 250,000 members at 1,800 campuses.
As a voter, Smith represents three voting blocks that did not break for the Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney - young, single and female.
“We have to increase our lead among younger voters,” Smith told The Daily Caller. “We have to get out and especially talk to female voters and minority voters if we want to stay alive as a party.”
Smith graduated magna cum laude with a degree in politics from The Catholic University of America. She's currently a second-year law student at Seton Hall University of Law in Newark. If elected chair of the CRNC, she would defer her third year of law school. Running for the position requires Smith to campaign coast-to-coast speaking to college Republicans.
Current Chairman Alex Schriver is not seeking a second term. He supports his co-chair's candidacy.
“Alex Smith has been a wonderful co-chair,” Schriver told The Daily Caller. “She will make an incredible chair. And I’m very excited for her candidacy.”
Even a casual glance at Smith's cred shows she's got her act together. She's the President of her school's chapter of The Federalist Society and has served as Chairman of the D.C. Federation of College Republicans. Smith's worked in a variety of political capacities from campaigning and lobbying to fundraising and interning.
And lest you doubt the amount of influence a student group could have on the trajectory of a national political party, consider that some famous characters rose out of the College Republican ranks - including Presidents William McKinley and Calvin Coolidge. Conservative stars started their political careers in the CR leadership: Karl Rove, Grover Norquist and (my personal favorite) Lee Atwater. The organization's played a key role in reaching the youth vote dating back to President Herbert Hoover's re-election when his campaign team created what's thought to be the first GOP presidential student coalition.
But the role of young Republican activists has never been more important.
Democratic President Barack Obama snapped up a whopping 60 percent of voters from ages 18 to 29, which represented 19 percent of all those who voted on November 6. That's a pretty high turnout considering young people represent about 21 percent of the voting-eligible population.
In fact, trends show the traditionally low-turnout voting block has gained ground in recent years. Young people made up just 17 percent of the electorate in 2004, when Democratic Sen. John Kerry lost to President George W. Bush.
Clearly, Smith and the College Republicans have their work cut out for them.
Follow me @erica_holloway.
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