In aggressively advancing a populist message, the Obama campaign is betting it can hold onto enough working-class white voters while maintaining its relatively upscale coalition from 2008. The Bain Capital backfire this week showed the dangers of relying too heavily on that strategy, and new poll data - along with last night's results in Kentucky and Arkansas - show the challenges President Obama faces in winning over blue-collar voters.
Obama lost over 40 percent of the vote to a perennial long-shot candidate John Wolfe in Arkansas' primary last night, and 42 percent voted for "uncommitted" in Kentucky's primary. No, Obama wasn't going to be contesting the two states in the presidential election - the states have been trending away from the party. But it offers a stark reminder just how much distance there is between Obama and the non-college whites that, until fairly recently, were an important part of the Democratic coalition. Bill Clinton carried both these states in 1992, and won his home state of Arkansas in 1996. There's a reason the Obama campaign isn't contesting neighboring Missouri, a perennial battleground.
The latest Quinnipiac poll of Florida voters, released this morning, offers further evidence of the challenges Obama faces with that demographic - and how far he's fallen since 2008. Mitt Romney leads Obama, 47 to 41 percent. Romney, hardly a working-class hero, leads Obama 57 to 30 percent among non-college whites. Put in context, Obama won 41 percent of non-college white voters in 2008, an 11 point drop in four years.