Mitt Romney's Working-Class Whites Problem

February 07, 2012 10:27 am ET — Jamison Foser

Mitt Romney

President Obama's so-called "Jewish Problem" has received a great deal of attention, with headlines like "Why Obama Is Losing the Jewish Vote" appearing regularly, even though the president is likely to win a comfortable majority among Jewish voters this fall. Obama's purported "Hispanic problem" faces similar factual hurdles.

Maybe, then, it's time for attention to turn elsewhere: Mitt Romney's problem with working-class white voters, a key part of the Republican coalition in recent elections. As the Washington Post's Greg Sargent notes, these voters aren't too happy about the fact that Mitt Romney pays a very low tax rate on the millions of dollars he makes every year: 

[A] big majority of blue collar whites, 67 percent, says that Romney's not paying his fair share in taxes, suggesting Obama's emphasis on tax fairness may be helping him make some headway in winning them back.

The Washington Post-ABC News poll Sargent referred to also found that 49 percent of whites who earn less than $50,000 a year think of Romney's wealth as a "negative because it suggests he benefited from opportunities that are not available to most people," compared to just 40 percent who see it as a "positive because it suggests he has achieved the American dream." White non-college graduates are split roughly evenly on questions of whether Romney did more to create or cut jobs in his business career and whether his wealth is a positive or a negative.

And last week, in the wake of Romney's statement that he isn't concerned about the poor, the Pew Research Center noted that "57% of lower-income Republican and Republican-leaning voters said the government does too little for poor people." (Pew didn't break the data down by race, but given that the vast majority of Republican voters are white, it's safe to conclude that lower-income white Republicans think the government does too little for the poor.)

Romney's business career is central to his campaign. (It has to be — he has only four years of experience in elected office, during which he compiled a record he prefers to run away from.) It's a crucial part of his economic message. But working-class whites, whose votes he needs in large numbers, don't seem to see his wealth as a positive, don't think he pays enough taxes, and disagree with his view of government help for the poor.