Mitt Romney's visit to an inner-city, predominantly African-American West Philadelphia charter school Thursday, pitching his message of education reform, looked like a curious move for his campaign. The images of Romney were, at times, awkward, and he faced a far-from-friendly crowd inside and a crop of protesters outside. But to understand the Romney campaign's decision, look no further than the key demographic group he needs to win over to defeat President Obama - college-educated white voters, particularly women. (Ron Brownstein, in yesterday's Decoded, deems them his "last line of defense.")
Obama will win overwhelming numbers of African-American voters in 2008, even if their turnout level dips slightly from 2008. But it's the affluent suburban voter that's most receptive to a campaign catering to diversity. It's why so many of the potential vice-presidential picks - from Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez - don't look like the Democratic stereotype of the white Republican male. Brookings analyst Bill Galston told the Washington Post: "Suburban voters will be a real battleground, and upscale white voters like to think of themselves as tolerant and they won't vote for a candidate that is seen as exclusionary, and the Romney folks must be aware of that."