Sen. Marco Rubio called Tuesday for a “new generation of leaders” to take control of government, delivering a challenge to the heavyweight legacy candidates in both the GOP and Democratic primaries who are fighting to keep the White House under control of a baby boomer.
Mr. Rubio is among a number of 40-somethings in the emerging Republican field who are seeking to wrest control of their party from family dynasties, urging voters to nominate a fresh face as they look to draw contrasts with some of their more experienced rivals, and arguing that the GOP’s chances of defeating 67-year-old Hillary Rodham Clinton could be doomed otherwise.
“I believe the time has come for a new generation of leaders — leaders who will create a growing economy, not a growing government,” the 44-year-old Mr. Rubio said at an economic forum in Orlando hosted by Florida Gov. Rick Scott. “Leaders who will help increase our families’ paychecks, not their bills.”
The Florida Republican’s remarks coincided with a CNN poll released Tuesday that found nearly four in 10 adults said they are less likely to vote for Mrs. Clinton because she is the wife of former President Bill Clinton.
The findings are worse yet for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, with more than half of those surveyed saying they are less likely to vote for the 62-year-old because he is the son and brother of former presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, respectively.
Plus, 62 percent said they saw Mr. Bush as a candidate of the past, and 34 percent saw him as representing the future, compared to 45 percent who said Mrs. Clinton represented the past and 51 percent saying she represented the future.
Mr. Rubio, meanwhile, is seen as representing the future by 58 percent and the past by 32 percent. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, 52, and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, 47, also fared well in the survey.
John Zogby, a pollster, said younger voters are fed up with government and aren’t enthused over either the Clinton or Bush brands, so it makes sense that Mr. Rubio and the younger crop of candidates — which also includes Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, 44, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, 43 — call for new leadership.
“For a number of reasons there is a clear generations divide, and, if executed properly, the message could really connect,” Mr. Zogby said.
President Obama showed the power of appeals to young voters in 2008, riding strong youth turnout to victories over Mrs. Clinton in the Democratic primary and over Sen. John McCain in the general election. Mr. Obama is nearly 15 years younger than Mrs. Clinton and 25 years younger than Mr. McCain.
But Mr. Obama is still part of the tail end of the boomer generation, and the 40-somethings within the GOP represent a change.
At the cattle call in Florida on Tuesday, Mr. Walker touted how he narrowly won young voters during his 2014 re-election bid.
“That’s largely unheard of for a Republican,” the two-term governor said. “We actually went to college campuses, we organized, and we went out to where young professionals were. We laid out the difference, which I think is not unlike the difference we might very likely see in this presidential election.”
And he cast Mrs. Clinton as a relic of the past.
“Hillary Clinton believes in [a] Washington-knows-best, top-down approach that says we’ll tell you what to do, when to do [it] and how to do it,” Mr. Walker said. “I think that is tired; I think that [has] failed. I think that’s something that should be left in the past. I think the contrast to that — to young voters, as an example — is to say we believe an economy should be built from the ground up. It’s new and fresh organic and dynamic.”
Meanwhile, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, 65, delivered a counterargument, suggesting that experience should trump other considerations.
“I’m thinking, when you go to Miami to get on an airliner to go to Rio de Janeiro, that you want somebody sitting in the front left seat of your airliner that’s got a substantial amount of time flying that big aircraft, going through every kind of instance that you can think of — every type of weather, seen every light flashing on that cockpit panel — and brought that airplane back safely time after time after time,” he said.
David Winston, a GOP pollster, said the generational message could help candidates such as Mr. Walker and Mr. Rubio to get voters to listen to them, but that “ultimately it is about the content.”
“Once you have gotten the person’s attention, now can you make the sale?” Mr. Winston said, adding that Ronald Reagan was 69 when he was first elected.
“If everything else is equal, then the attribute [youth] will matter,” he said. “However, there can be the assumption that everything is equal when often that is not the case. That is why Reagan, who is someone who was clearly older, could do well with younger voters, because, ultimately, it came down to content.”