INGRID JACQUES

Jacques: Case for a Gen X president

Ingrid Jacques
The Detroit News

Hillary Clinton’s campaign released a video this week that features darling little girls reading letters they wrote to the Democratic presidential frontrunner. Their message? Get a woman in the White House.

The video description on YouTube states: "In this heartwarming video, see what a few little girl supporters wanted to tell Hillary Clinton. Their inspiring words remind us there is still much to do to break the highest hardest glass ceiling for every girl out there.”

I’m all for girl power and breaking through glass ceilings, but as I watched “44 Boys is Too Many!” I couldn’t help but feel that Clinton is speaking to her generation — not mine.

And it got me thinking about how it’s time for a next generation president. Baby boomers have had their turn in the White House.

Let’s elect a Generation X president.

And that candidate is going to have to come from the Republican side, with Clinton pushing 70 and her top contender Bernie Sanders having crossed that mark a few years back.

When I’ve informally polled conservative friends and colleagues around my age — or younger Millennials — they more often than not will say Marco Rubio is their guy.

The Florida senator is interesting to me, too. When I hear him talk, he’s speaking my language. He gets the issues that matter to younger Americans — and older ones, too.

What do younger conservative voters care about?

“Young people are looking for leaders who supports policies that promote innovation and competition — tearing down barriers to opportunity in areas such as higher education, Social Security, the sharing economy,” observes Kevin Gardner, Michigan State Director for Generation Opportunity, which advocates for free market policies that impact Millennials. “The government is mortgaging away our future, but we have the capacity to change the trajectory of the country if we vote.”

Rubio, who is 44, seems to get that. He’s not the only GOP candidate who does, of course, but his message is the clearest. Get government out of the way where possible, and give individuals freedom to achieve the American dream.

Cruz is also 44, and like Rubio, a first-term senator, but he seems much older. As a colleague of mine observed during a recent debate, everything he says sounds like a sermon. And she’s right. He’s preachy and that’s a turnoff. Cruz is appealing to the religious right faction of the GOP, while Rubio is taking a more moderate stance on some of the issues.

That Rubio is less of an ideologue will make him attractive to a wider range of voters, says Michigan pollster Steve Mitchell.

“He does represent that new generation,” he says

And depending on the poll, Rubio seems to be gaining steam. A national Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday finds that Rubio is in second place to Donald Trump at 17 percent. And when matched against Clinton, Rubio outperforms Trump. A Real Clear Politics polling average has Clinton at 44.3 percent and Trump at 43.7 — yet Rubio trumps Clinton 46.3 to 43.3, a bigger margin than any other GOP candidate.

In Michigan, Rubio is picking up steam, with U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga endorsing him this week, joining Rep. John Moolenaar to lead Rubio’s team in the state. GOP funder and businessman John Rakolta Jr. has also joined forces with Rubio.

Rubio has consistently made the case that he’s the face of the next century, and he’s done a good job of contrasting himself to the much older Clinton — calling the next election a “generational choice.” When he spoke at the Detroit Economic Club in August, he said America was ready for a new generation of leaders.

“Hillary Clinton believes the way to win the race for the future is to drive in reverse — to revert back to more regulations, higher taxes and bigger government,” Rubio said in Detroit.

That’s not the direction my generation wants.

ijacques@detroitnews.com