The 2012 Class Divide


by Patrick Appel

Ronald Brownstein splits the 2012 GOP presidential candidates into managers and populists. He notes that Palin, the archetypal populist, takes the lion's share of the low-income non-college vote while Romney, the stereotypical managerial candidate, overwhelming wins high-earning college grads. How the political environment might help determine the winner:

 If the race focuses on hostility toward Washington, anger at elites in both parties, and tests of ideological purity, those dynamics will favor the populists, as they did the tea party insurgents who won several GOP Senate primaries this year. One senior strategist for a 2012 contender, who asked not to be identified, says that anyone who thinks a populist can’t win the Republican nomination should “just frankly … look at this year’s Senate primary elections” for proof to the contrary.

But doesn't Christine O'Donnell's epic failure demonstrate the limits of Tea Party infused populism? Brownstein continues:

[M]anagers will benefit if the election revolves around reviving the economy. Whit Ayres, a veteran GOP pollster, predicts that the Republican contest will overwhelmingly focus on that issue, boosting candidates such as Romney and dooming Palin if she runs. “Until the economy turns around … jobs and spending are going to dominate everything, and that means cultural affinity is less important,” Ayres contends. “Palin has no record of significant job creation or significant public-sector accomplishment. She is going to run up against a wall at some point because of that lack of a demonstrated record of accomplishment.”

Yes, but Romney is too busy running away from his accomplishments to run on them.