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Who's Got More Blue-collar Appeal, Hillary Or Obama?

I'm crashing on a web piece for tomorrow, so I can't get too bogged down in this, but I did want to briefly wade into the debate Jon Chait and Jonathan Cohn are having about who'll do a better job attracting swing voters--and, relatedly, the working class. Jonathan cites a piece I wrote earlier this year about how Hillary has an edge among blue-collar voters because in some respects they value experience--particularly the ethos of waiting one's turn--more than white collar voters do. I still think this is true (though I took a lot of flak for it in the blogosphere at the time). But, since then, I've re-thought the broader question of blue-collar preferences a bit.

I now believe that Obama can more than hold his own among blue-collar voters because, as I argued in this recent piece, they (somewhat counter-intuitively) tend to value bipartisanship more than white-collar voters do. So, while I think that Ron Brownstein column Jonathan cites is right in a lot of respects--blue-collar voters do crave a candidate who talks concretely about improving their lives; white-collar voters tend to go in for more abstract talk about change and reform--Brownstein is wrong in one key respect: These days, blue-collar voters are more receptive to a unifier (and less receptive to a partisan street-fighter) than their white-collar counterparts.

And, in fact, the Des Moines Register numbers Jonathan cites basically bear this out: Among people with only a high school degree, Obama trails Hillary by a mere 32-26 margin, with Edwards at 25. Among people with "some college" (often considered working-class by pollsters), Obama actually leads Hillary 27-26 (with 27 supporting Edwards). That doesn't seem like a very stark "wine track"/"beer track" divide to me--certainly not nearly as stark as you'd predict from that Brownstein column. (Though, in fairness, Obama did trail significantly among working-class voters at the time he wrote it.)

P.S. See my interview with Obama for his thoughts on the Brownstein column.   

--Noam Scheiber