Romney’s Most Important Demographic

National Journal Staff

Mitt Romney’s visit to an inner-city, predominantly African-American West Philadelphia charter school Thursday looked like a curious move for his campaign, pitching his message of education reform.

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. (National Journal’s Ron Brownstein deems them Obama's “last line of defense.”)

Obama will win overwhelming numbers of African-American voters, 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 – 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 today: “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.”

Polls currently show Obama in very poor shape with working-class whites, performing well with minority voters, and with college-educated whites in the middle. The white, upscale professionals are very winnable for Romney, but they still haven’t broken from Obama. The Romney campaign believes that the main way to win them over is to contrast Obama’s post-partisan promise with the economic reality of 2012. But also expect Romney to appeal to them by making a play for minority voters that the Republican party has often overlooked, through policies like school choice (and, in all likelihood, a far different tone on immigration than he showed in the primaries).

Romney will not win the support of most minority voters, but by pitching a message that doesn’t rule them out, he could end up winning the demographic group that matters most.

—Josh Kraushaar, Hotline executive editor


Romney Slow to Engage in the Battle For the Hispanic Vote
[National Journal, 5/25/12] So far, Obama is crushing Romney in the battle over the Hispanic vote: The president has invested $1 million in Spanish-language media over the last five weeks, while Romney has spent only $13,000 since he clinched the nomination. And while Obama’s ads are specifically targeted to a Hispanic audience, Romney’s are exactly the same as his ads in English – just translated into Spanish.

Rubio Criticizes Obama’s ‘Troubling Chest-Thumping’ on bin Laden NEW!
[National Journal, 5/25/12] Florida Senator and potential GOP veep pick Marco Rubio on Friday criticized the Obama administration’s cooperation with a company making a movie about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, calling the administration’s actions “part of a troubling trend of chest-thumping” that could hamper the military. 

Obama Pokes Fun at Romney in Iowa NEW!
[Des Moines Register, 5/25/12] Obama traveled to the Hawkeye State on Thursday, where he said his rival gave Iowans a “cowpie of distortion” after telling them he could douse the “prairie fire of debt” that is supposedly sweeping the nation. The president berated his opponent at the Iowa State Fairgrounds to a crowd of 2,500 people. Front page of the Des Moines Register.

Obama's Bogus War on Bain NEW!
[Business Week, 5/25/12] Joshua Green writes that he finds it odd that private equity has become such a huge issue in a national campaign, considering Obama has never made it an issue in his presidency. Even in the Dodd-Frank banking reform, it didn’t factor in the debate. Green points out that while Obama attacks the industry, he holds fundraisers with industry leaders.

Obama vs. Romney: How Big a Government?
[National Journal, 5/24/12] Few issues illuminate the presidential candidates’ wildly divergent views on the appropriate size and role of the federal government more than taxes, spending, and the deficit. National Journal’s Nancy Cook explores how Romney and Obama differ on fiscal policy.

Romney Holds Key Advantage Among Financially Struggling White Voters
[Washington Post, 5/25/12] The newest Washington Post/ABC News polls shows Romney holding significant advantages over Obama among white voters who are struggling financially and buffeted by job loss. In an election year in which the economy ranks as America’s top concern, this margin could mean disaster for the president.

Rejected Ideas From Romney’s ‘Day One’ Ad
[Funny or Die, 5/24/12] Funny or Die has some fun with Romney’s first commercials of the general election campaign. From “Pin Joe Biden to the ground, shave his fruity haircut,” to “Avoid saying ‘I don’t feel feelings’” here are some lines that didn’t make the cut.

Are Romney and Obama Competing for the Austerity Prize?  NEW! 
[TPM, 5/25/12] Obama, Romney, and their surrogates on Capitol Hill are locked in a battle over which candidate and which party will more quickly and effectively reduce the deficit – the opposite of what economists say we need.

Obama’s Checklist
[National Journal, 5/24/12] For each group central to his electoral coalition, Obama has either instigated or escalated conflicts with the GOP on symbolically powerful wedge issues. But National Journal’s Ron Brownstein writes that the president also needs to lay out a second-term agenda.

Unleash Biden!
[National Review, 5/25/12] Rich Lowry writes that an over-the-top VP with little regard for nuance or truth makes him the ideal attack dog – but the worst possible surrogate.

Column: Romney’s Moment
[Wall Street Journal, 5/24/12] In an interview with WSJ’s Peggy Noonan, Romney opens up about the difference between the Romney in 2008 and the Romney now, his routine before rallies and town halls, and his iPad.

Obama Stumbles Out of the Gate
[Politico, 5/25/12] Since Obama officially launched his re-election campaign three weeks ago, the president, not Romney, is the one with the muddled message – and the one who often comes across as badly political. Most surprisingly, the president is also the one falling behind in fundraising.

Obama’s Rush to Define Romney
[National Journal, 5/24/12] Let’s face it: Obama is the guy we want to have a beer with. But being a regular guy doesn’t win elections in an economy as stubbornly resistant to recovery as this one seems to be – or does it? National Journal’s Jackie Koszczuk weighs in.

Romney’s Quiet Campaign For African-American Votes
[Washington Post, 5/24/12] Romney’s camp has been quietly laying the groundwork for an outreach effort to Obama’s most loyal supporters, black voters. But that plan clashed with political realities on the ground in West Philadelphia on Thursday. Front page of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Obama Campaign Gets Wise to GOP Twitter Tricks 
[National Journal, 5/24/12] Obama announced a seemingly-impromptu Twitter Q&A on Thursday night that actually turned out to be carefully planned, but the last-minute announcement allowed Obama to avoid Republicans taking over the conversation on social media.

Attend a National Journal LIVE event | Sign up for National Journal newsletters