On Tuesday J. P. Green flagged Ari Berman’s article, “Who Will ‘Reagan Democrats’ Support in 2012?” in The Nation. Berman’s perceptive take on Democratic prospects for winning the support of this pivotal constituency merits a little more attention.
Berman, author of “Herding Donkeys: The Fight to Rebuild the Democratic Party and Reshape American Politics,” quotes TDS Co-Editor Stan Greenberg on the failure of Romney and Santorum to generate much excitement among white working class voters:
“There’s lots of evidence that Reagan Democrats have pulled back from Romney,” says Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg, who has studied this group of voters for three decades. “But we don’t know yet whether they’ll embrace Santorum. They do not really know him, though conservative pundits think he will have more of a working class appeal than Romney. Could be true–but only because Romney went Wall Street.”
Nor will Santorum’s outspoken social conservatism necessarily help him win Reagan Democrats. “I don’t think they are particularly socially conservative, if you are referring to abortion and family issues raised by Santorum,” Greenberg says. “They are fairly libertarian and anti-government intrusiveness–and are much more concerned with guns than the pill. They were/are strongly NRA in our research.” In 2008, Romney won Macomb County with 45 percent of the vote, while evangelical favorite Mike Huckabee came in a distant third.
In terms of Obama’s prospects, Berman adds that he lost the white working-class by 18 percent in 2008 and Dems lost them by a whopping 30 points in 2010. He notes Tom Edsall’s assertion that “Preparations by Democratic operatives for the 2012 election make it clear for the first time that the party will explicitly abandon the white working class.” However, says Berman,
Edsall’s prediction generated a lot of buzz, but turned out not to be true. Obama has a 43 percent approval rating among working class whites in the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll, higher than it was in 2008. At the beginning of 2011, Romney led Obama by around twenty points among blue-collar whites in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin, according to internal polling by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner. At the end of last month, Romney led the president by only three among such voters in these Rust Belt battleground states, a seventeen-point swing over the past year. “White non-college voters in these states moved drastically away from Obama and Democrats between 2008 and 2010, but since then they have come back to basically the same levels they gave Democrats in 2008,” says GQR vice president Andrew Bauman.
And if Dems can stay in that range in the polls, 2012 should prove to be a very good year for the president and his party.