The Magazine

Losing the Working Class

As Ohio goes . . . ?

Nov 21, 2011, Vol. 17, No. 10 • By HENRY OLSEN
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One could dismiss this and argue that these Republican voters will ultimately back whomever the party nominates. But a recent Wall Street Journal poll confirms that Romney’s problem extends to white working-class independents as well. The poll, released last week, found that an unnamed generic Republican beats President Obama among the white working class by 12 points, 48 percent to 36 percent. Paired with Romney, however, Obama runs even at 44 percent.

Despite all their advantages, Republicans won only 52 percent of the popular vote in the House last year. They achieved this total because of their record-high 63 percent to 33 percent margin of victory among the white working class. In other words, if the Republican nominee’s share of the white working-class vote slips below 60 percent, there is virtually no chance he will get a majority of the national popular vote in 2012. If the share slips closer to McCain’s 58 percent in 2008, Obama’s reelection is assured.

There is still time for the GOP leadership and Romney to recognize the problem and act. Failure to do so, however, will mean Republicans are placing all their 2012 eggs in the anti-Obama basket. That’s a highly leveraged bet for a traditionally risk-averse party to make.

Henry Olsen is a vice president at the American Enterprise Institute.

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