President Obama is stumping in Scranton this afternoon, which is strange, because as everyone now knows, he has decided to abandon the white working class.
What, you hadn't heard? Everyone's been reporting it. Well, almost everyone. On Monday, Fox News' web site linked to a New York Times column by Tom Edsall by giving it this headline: "NYT: Obama Plans to Abandon the White Working Class." A day later, William McGurn's op-ed column in the Wall Street Journal, the print branch of Murdochia, carried almost the same headline: "Obama Abandons the Working Class."
What has prompted this conclusion? Another overheard musing by Obama about "bitter" working class voters? A secret memo from Jim Messina in Chicago? No. A demographic analysis of the 2012 electorate from the Center for American Progress. Ruy Teixeira and John Halpin did not realize it, but their dense 69-page report analyzing the electorate -- which notes, above all, that the electorate's share of racial minorities and Gen-Y voters continues to grow -- was so convincing that it has now been adopted as the official governing document of the Obama campaign. Leave aside that the analysis, as discussed in this space last week, makes clear that Obama is in trouble if he loses too many working class white voters below his 2008 share; leave aside that Messina, Obama's 2012 campaign manager, has made clear that the campaign is so heartened by the momentum in Ohio and Wisconsin against anti-union legislation there that it is planning to redouble its 2012 push in those states; no, selected portions of a single think tank report are certainly proof that Obama has decided to abandon a huge swath of the electorate, one that, as Jay Cost pointed out in the Weekly Standard, ranged from 43 percent to 52 percent of his winning coalition in a half dozen key states in 2008.
What's going on here? Well, we may be witnessing a reckoning with the wisdom of Joe McQuaid, the publisher of New Hampshire's conservative Union Leader, who noted this week that Mitt Romney was not an ideal candidate for a populist moment since a quarter-billionaire former private equity maven "sort of represents the 1 percent." If you are worried about your party's appeal to an aggrieved working class, what better tack to take than simply to declare that your opponent has flat out abandoned these voters, and hope that picks up some steam?
There's just one problem. Arguing that Obama is abandoning the working class flies in the face of the right's other argument of the moment, that he has taken a hard populist turn to pander to economically struggling voters upset at the banks and corporations. So which is it? Obama the anti-working class elitist, or Obama the populist rabble-rouser? Hopefully they can work this out soon in the upper floors of News Corp.