Romney campaigns against student aid in Ohio.
When it comes to alienating key voting constituencies, Republicans are on a roll. The GOP has already gone out of its way to push Latino voters away, and seems to operating under the assumption that women no longer vote at all.
Yesterday, Mitt Romney, the likely Republican presidential nominee, decided to alienate students, too.
The high school senior who stood up at Mitt Romney's town hall meeting here today was worried about how he and his family would pay for college, and wanted to hear what the candidate would do about rising college costs if elected. He didn't realize that Mr. Romney was about to use him to demonstrate his fiscal conservatism to the crowd.
The answer: nothing.
Mr. Romney was perfectly polite to the student. He didn't talk about the dangers of liberal indoctrination on college campuses, as Rick Santorum might have. But his warning was clear: shop around and get a good price, because you're on your own.
Romney could have talked about student loans, Pell Grants, or efforts to help curtail sharp increases in tuition rates, but the Republican instead urged the Ohio student to find a college "that has a little lower price."
Maybe the kid can get a break after graduating? Romney rejected that, too: "[D]on't expect the government to forgive the debt that you take on."
This isn't exactly surprising, since Romney endorsed Paul Ryan's House GOP budget plan that includes severe cuts to college aid, but as the New York Times report added, Romney's blunt you're-on-your-own response was "pretty brutal."
In the 2008 presidential election, there was a striking age gap -- Obama not only beat McCain among younger voters, he did so by a two-to-one margin. Four years later, with Republicans now showing unrestrained hostility towards higher ed and helping students, don't be too surprised if younger voters rally behind Obama in even greater numbers in 2012.
Indeed, the contrast is striking. The president considers his student-loan reforms to be among his key domestic achievements, including doubling the investment in Pell Grants, and creating the "American Opportunity Tax Credit" that gave 9.4 million families a break on tuition rates. His likely GOP challenger's advice to students? Good luck figuring something out.