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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Keeping Blue Collars Blue

The L.A. Times has an insightful article, “Democrats Seek to Strengthen Grip on Blue-Collar Workers” by Janet Hook and Tom Hamburger. The article addresses the relative strengths and weaknesses of both Senators Obama and Clinton in campaigning for blue collar votes in the context of McCain’s candidacy, and reports on new Labor and Democratic’ initiatives to solidify working class votes. The concern, in a nutshell:

The AFL-CIO became concerned after polls and focus groups found considerable willingness among union members to consider supporting McCain, regardless of which Democrat won the nomination…Looking toward the general election, labor strategists were alarmed by polls and focus groups of undecided union members that showed McCain doing well in match-ups with either Democratic candidate, said Karen Ackerman, political director of the AFL-CIO. But those focus groups also found that union members knew very little about McCain’s economic positions, including those the labor federation opposes.

The authors also quote John Edwards’s former campaign head David Bonior on the problem of white working class political drift in November:

“That vote is up for grabs,” said David Bonior, campaign manager for John Edwards’ failed Democratic presidential bid. “We will have to work incredibly hard,” he said, to blunt McCain’s potential appeal to working-class voters, which is based on his status as a war hero and his reputation as a political moderate….Bonior argued that Obama has had trouble winning that constituency — a problem he shares with past Democratic candidates John F. Kerry, Al Gore and Michael S. Dukakis

The Oregon AFL-CIO web page has three good companion pieces to the LA Times article, featuring some useful information for addressing the McCain problem. For example:

First elected to the Senate in 1986, McCain has a lifetime AFL-CIO rating of 17 percent through 2006. During the first session of the 110th congress, McCain voted with the AFL-CIO only 3 times out of 34 votes taken…He’s voted with the President 88 percent of the time.

The web page also points out that McCain voted against: extending temporary unemployment benefits; raising the minimum wage; overtime rights protection; the Federal Childrens’ Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). He’s voted for legislation that exports American jobs, promotes privatization and would provide permanent tax cuts for the wealthy. There is more than enough in McCain’s track record to stop him from winning support from working families — if the Dems and unions do a good enough job in publicizing it in blue collar America.

3 comments on “Keeping Blue Collars Blue

  1. Blue Jean on

    Problem is, most blue collar voters believe Obama is talking down to them, and McCain isn’t. Hillary can talk to them, and many blue collar women identify with her, but if she’s not on the ticket, either P or VP, then that advantage is gone.

  2. Will Neuhauser on

    The press loves the horserace and Democrats tend to get all wonky about the “positions” being held, but strategically, there is a win for either Democratic candidate: Republican economics are a failure and their chickens are coming home to roost and McCain is a life-long Republican — keep them joined at the hip.
    Emphasize the failure of the 30-year experiment with Republican tax-cut, high debt, deregulation, lack of infrastructure investment, hate-the-government ideology that has lead to stagnate median wages with increasing housing, education, fuel, etc. costs has trapped people that aren’t wealthy.
    Emphasize that McCain has been a Republican Senator helping preside over the creation of the mess we’re in now.

  3. links on

    Despite the massive turnout in the primaries and all he young voters mobilized by Obama, it is looking more and more like the general will come down to who can win the white working class in Ohio. McCain could actually have an advantage here if Obama is the nominee, if he stops telling blue collar workers their jobs aren’t coming back.


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