They used Romney’s opposition to Obama’s auto bailout as a metaphor for his concern for the rich over the poor and middle class. They ran ad after ad saying the Ryan plan would cut nursing home care. They portrayed Romney’s tax reform proposal as a giveaway to the wealthy and a tax increase on the middle-class. The accuracy of these charges simply does not matter. What matters is that they were effective. They suppressed turnout and support for Romney among the white working class and preserved Obama’s “Midwest Firewall” of Ohio, Wisconsin, and Iowa.
Obama won overwhelmingly the fifth of voters who said the most important quality in picking a president is that he “cares about people like me.” The majority of voters who thought the U.S. economic system favors the wealthy broke 71 percent to 26 percent for Obama. A majority of voters said Romney’s policies would generally favor the rich, while a plurality of voters said Obama’s policies generally favor the middle class. A majority of voters said George W. Bush was more to blame for our current economic problems.
Obama pollster Joel Benenson is right when he says, “The contours of the 2012 presidential race were shaped less by the country’s changing demographics than by the underlying attitudes and values of American voters.” The attitudes and values of the Obama coalition, including Hispanics, are much more favorable to a robust and active federal government and safety net. These voters see government support for the poor, middle class, and elderly not as a matter of accounting but of morality. The Romney campaign failed to convey an economic message responsive to these attitudes and values while ceding the ground of social and cultural debate to the left. The result was a drubbing for the GOP and a reality check for conservative pundits (like me).