Hey, this is related to me! I'll chime in with anecdotes.
Where are they now, as 22-28 year olds?
Although I live in DC now (sorry RJB, I moved out of Falls Church. You're the VA A2Ker now), the majority of my Facebook friends are still from Missouri. Missouri is a swing state that tends to lean conservative. I'd gage that amongst my friends I'm to the left. Most of my friends fall into a more moderate conservative area with some outliers on either end.
Most are now out of college and in the workforce. A few are unemployed.
I'll reply to my best ability to share the sentiments I've observed over the last two years.
Are they still as idealistic, so full of optimism now that they have entered the real world during the Great Recession?
The one who voted for Obama are less idealistic, but I think it has less to do with entering the real world, and more to do with Obama not being the game changer some thought he would be. I'd say that those who voted from him are still optimistic though. I don't hear the woes of ruin from this crowd.
Those who voted for McCain or other candidates have gained a new idealistic outlook. This is the Tea Party kind of sentiment. The new ideal is very heavy on the libertarian narrative. I think this in general is the new exciting brand of conservatism that captivates younger conservatives. This group I think inversely is not optimistic at all. It seems all dread and despair for what comes next.
In a more general sense, I don't think that Obama is going to pick up voters from this block who had previously voted for McCain. From this age group, I think you'll see Obama gets the same voters, and any raise in this age bracket of voters will go to conservative candidates if the person sells it right.
Will they be as energized in 2011 as they were in 2007?
It's hard to say. I think the ball was always going to be in the GOP's court on this. I think to many Obama voters, what is going to get them back in the voting booth for Obama is some demonstration by the GOP of what is in store. This may be already happening with current events like WI unions etc.
For the younger conservatives, I think they aren't as much energized as they are passionate. That could turn into productive energy for the GOP if the right candidate comes along, but as of now, I think that passion is focused in a way that doesn't help the GOP. I think the fervency amongst young conservatives is that government is bad. GOP elites have a challenge to get them to buy in.
And what of the newly hatched voters since 2007; the 18-21 year olds?
This is my sister's generation. I think this group is more liberal than my peers. That doesn't guarantee Obama gets to count them. They will need a road map.
Will they find their voice to participate in the electoral process?
I think so, but it won't be (can't be) the same way it was in 2008. A clear vision of where we are headed needs to be laid out by both Obama, and the GOP in terms of which GOP they are.
She is skeptical and throws that up as a potential danger for Obama.
Sure. Obama is not a sure thing. I still think he has it as of right now. People are shaky with him, but even my conservative friends won't come to the defense of the GOP.