Echols began to identify himself as a conservative in college: “I majored in economics, and it shaped the way I thought about policies, people's choices and the size of government.”
More than 50 million voting-age “millennials,” those ages 18 to 29, live in the United States — about 17 percent of the electorate, according to Pew Research Center in Washington.
The Republican Party determined a need to reach them after releasing its “Growth and Opportunity Project” in late March that scrutinized data from the 2012 presidential election. The report proposed ways that conservatives could attract not just young voters but women and minorities — three important demographics in American politics.
Exit polling last year showed President Obama with a 28-point advantage over Republican nominee Mitt Romney, a gap that widened dramatically since the under-30 vote began breaking for Democrats in 1992 with Bill Clinton.
Echols wants to do more than recruit voters or volunteers. “I want to see young people running for office as well,” he said.
To be effective, he'll need to get out of Washington and make sure state GOP committees and elected officials try to engage young people, he said.
In recent weeks, the RNC hired Orlando Watson and Tara Wall to head communications for black media and rolled out an aggressive Hispanic outreach program in Pennsylvania, California, Florida, New Jersey, New Mexico, Texas and Virginia. The goal is to build a grassroots infrastructure to engage people at community events.
Michael Czin, spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, is skeptical that hiring a few people with new titles will help Republicans win votes.
“Their real problem is, their policies and message do not attract young people or minorities,” he said. “The Democrats' policies on issues like choice and college affordability, to name a few, are why we have been good at getting young people to support our candidates, not who we have on staff.”
Still, said Alex Castellanos, a Republican political analyst in Washington, “This is a move in the right direction, especially committing permanent positions in an off-year election. It shows they are not just doing it to close the margins but to actually build a long-lasting relationship.”