Mitt Romney and President Obama have the same personality weaknesses -- cool, uninterested in making new friends, impatient with small talk -- that can limit their effectiveness with lawmakers. But they also have the same electoral weaknesses: blue-collar workers and college-educated whites.
According to Politico's Alexander Burns, both candidates have struggled to win the votes of lower-income white people, Obama in the 2008 election and Romney in the Republican primary this year. And both did better among college-educated whites, who polls show are split evenly between the two men. Burns calls these two groups the "persuadables" -- the people the campaigns think they can actually win over with the right message. One thing that's striking about this analysis, however: downscale whites plus upscale whites -- doesn't that just add up to all whites?
Politico says the fight for these two white subgroups is "symmetrical warfare." Among poorer whites, Obama is weak because they never liked him much to begin with, and they've been hit harder by the economy, while Romney is weak because he's not very likable and says dumb things about being rich. As for wealthier whites, per Burns:
Strategists privy to internal polling on both sides of the 2012 race say that higher-end suburbanites — particularly white women — are perhaps the most closely divided persuadables. One Republican operative involved in 2012 strategy put it this way: “We are going after moderate, upscale people, who maybe for the first time voted for a Democrat for president [in 2008] and are rethinking that.” ...
A source familiar with the Obama campaign’s thinking described the population of persuadable voters in similar terms, pointing to middle-class, suburban women as the most winnable prize.
A new poll, The New York Times' Jeff Zeleny and Allison Kopicki report, shows how the candidates can make the economic case to those voters. While Obama is helped by the feeling that the economy is getting better, Romney is helped by the fact that some people don't think the improvement has helped them yet. The poll finds a majority of voters think wealthier people should pay higher taxes -- hence Obama's "Buffett Rule" -- but Romney does well with voters who think the country's going in the wrong direction.