Obama's Plan for Victory Runs Through Red States

With low approval ratings among working-class whites, he targets educated independents

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When President Obama traveled to Denver Tuesday to push for his jobs plan, he brushed off claims that he was engaging in "class warfare" by saying he's proud to be "a warrior for the working class," the Denver Post reports. But it wasn't really the working class he was talking to. Obama's poll numbers among less-educated whites are low, and his 2012 campaign has decided his path to reelection runs through traditionally red states like Colorado, where better-educated, wealthier independents have migrated. "There are a lot of ways for us to get to 270, and it’s not just the traditional map," Obama strategist David Axelrod told The New York Times' Jackie Calmes and Mark Landler. Instead of stumping in the traditional Democratic states in the Rust Belt, the campaign is looking at Colorado, North Carolina, Virginia, maybe even Arizona and Georgia. The plan is based on a two major  trends:

Unhappy working-class whites: "The latest nationwide New York Times/CBS News poll this month showed that 51 percent of independents with household incomes below $50,000 disapproved of Mr. Obama’s performance, as did 57 percent of those with incomes of $50,000 to $100,000. But independents with household incomes above $100,000 approved of his job performance by 50 percent to 43 percent," the Times reports.
Growing minority population: Terry Nelson, who worked on the Bush and McCain campaigns, told the Times that demographic changes mean "The truth is, Obama needs fewer white voters in 2012 than he did in 2008." Mike Henry, who's running Virginia Democrat Tim Kaine's Senate campaign, explained, "It's the difference between the Old Dominion and the New Dominion... [There is] an influx of Latinos, African-American families, Asians. ... [T]he demographic characteristics of the state are totally different than what they were 10 years ago." Together, Colorado, North Carolina, and Virginia have twice the electoral votes of Ohio. It's no coincidence that Obama's given speeches about his jobs proposal in all three states (above, he visits a factory in North Carolina).
The White House is looking at the successful campaign of Michael Bennet, who was elected to the Senate in Colorado in 2010 despite the huge losses Democrats faced elsewhere. His coalition was made up of independents, college-educated people new to the state, and Latinos. With the growth of Latino voters, Obama's reelection team can't help but be encouraged by the fighting within the Republican Party over immigration. Texas Gov. Rick Perry is getting attacked by all his rivals for a Texas law that gives illegal immigrants in-state college tuition and for saying it's impossible to build a fence stretching the 1,200 miles of the border with Mexico.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.