All of which makes Schock, hailed as a "bright, young rising star" by House minority whip Eric Cantor, the newbie to watchor to grab hold of. "I've had Republicans come to me and say, 'Tell me how I should talk to young people!' as if it's some foreign language or something," Schock says between bites of a cheeseburger at Bullfeathers, a popular lunch spot on the Hill. He's equally dismissive of a GOP "hip-hop" strategy: "So does that mean we're going to, like, rap our message?" he asks. According to Schock, the party's youngest representative by six years, the solution to the Republicans' generational problem is pretty straightforward: "You have to go where the young people are," he says. "Most aren't picking up the New York Times to get their daily dose of politics. They're getting it online. They watch YouTube, they Twitter, they have Facebook pagesthose are their means of communication. But a lot of older people just say, 'Well, young people aren't going to vote for me, so I'm just not going there.' Well, any time you write off a demographic, you're going to get your tail handed to you, as evidenced by McCain's campaign." Schock has tried to heed that wisdom latelyrelying on Facebook and YouTube to spread his message and writing an amendment to the tarp oversight bill that requires the establishment of a website to track how bailout money is spent. But the truth is new media is as unfamiliar to him as it is to most of his gray-haired colleagues. Schock didn't sign up for Twitter until mid-March, more than two months after he'd been sworn in and five months after septuagenarian technophobe John McCain signed up. At press time, Schock had all of 95 Twitter followers.
ON THE ONE HAND, Schock's youth has been his calling card as a politician. On the other, he's never really acted or seemed young. "When my oldest son was buying dirt bikes and four-wheelers, Aaron"the youngest of four children"was buying stocks and rental properties," recalls Schock's father, Richard. Schock was in such a hurry to grow up that he wanted to go to college after his junior year of high schoolbut the Peoria school board wouldn't let him graduate because four full years of PE were required. Schock got his revengeand his start in politicsthe following year by running as a write-in candidate for the school board and winning. He was 19. He sprinted through college at Bradley University in his hometown, earning his finance degree in two years, and then, in 2004, defeated an eight-year Democratic incumbent for an Illinois state house seat, which meant adding Rod Blagojevich to the Rolodex. ("I knew everything in state government was for sale," Schock says. "He shook down my constituents in Peoria, so I knew it was on steroids in Chicago.") When congressman Ray LaHood (now Obama's secretary of transportation) announced he was retiring from the U.S. House in 2007, Schock outmaneuvered a host of local Republican insidersincluding LaHood's sonfor his party's nomination. After winning the GOP primary, he was all but a lock in the general election: The district hadn't sent a Democrat to the House since 1939. Schock was such a shoo-in that, unlike almost every other Republican in America, he actually campaigned with George W. Bush, whom he invited to town to host a $700,000 fund-raiser. He won the seat handily.
Schock's old-school conservatism has helped him make fast friends among the ideologues of the House Republican Caucus, which is led by people like Cantor (called "Mr. No" by Democrats for his obstructionism). Schock is ardently opposed to abortion and gay marriageand he's got the requisite scorn for Big Government. Shortly after the Fox News interview, as Schock leaves the Capitol, a motorcade of police cars, SUVs, and a limo passes on Independence Avenue. He gawks like a touristbut quickly spins the scene into a parable. "Sometimes I look around and I think, Man, this is a lot of money," he says. "Like, I know this is pretty perverted, but I think of, like, all these people working. I think, It all costs us money. You know, it's like the National Institute for the, you know, Study of Wild Animals." Once you get past the likes and mans and you knows, the future of the GOP doesn't sound all that different from the past.