John Feehery: Speaking Engagements

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Rust Belt Moving Against Obama

Posted on June 20, 2012


President Obama made a tactically brilliant decision to put Mitt Romney in a box last week on immigration when he announced that he wasn’t going to enforce certain of laws pertaining to illegal aliens who happened to be here through no fault of their own.

Romney seemed to be on the defensive when Bob Schieffer asked him about it over the weekend, and the Massachusetts Governor has continued to be glaringly unspecific about the proposal.

That opaqueness has energized and infuriated a media that desperately wants to pin down the presumptive nominee on the issue of immigration.

As Sean Trende point out, though, in today’s edition of Real Clear Politics, this issue cuts both ways.  Sure, for Hispanic voters, this is a big deal, but white voters don’t share the same views.   In fact, allowing an amnesty-type program could energize working class white voters to turn against the President in greater numbers.

The President’s strategy is pretty transparent.  He wants to energize minority voters to turn out for his campaign.  And he has made a series of decisions to get those voting blocs excited about his re-election.   He embraced gay marriage to attract the statistically small but financially powerful gay community.   He has sent specific appeals to African-American voters throughout his tenure.  He has pushed the theme of a war on women to get single women to vote for his re-election.  And with this appeal, he thinks he can get Mexican-Americans to turn out big for him.

While tactically this segmented strategy may be smart, strategically it could turn out to be a disaster for the President.  It has become clear that the Obama campaign is giving up on white, working class voters.   They don’t like the Obama very much, and with the economy continuing to be a basket case, they blame him for their economic troubles.

Making specific appeals to African-Americans, gays and Hispanics doesn’t help win white voters.   And this can hurt in especially in the Rust Belt.  Pennsylvania is 80 percent white.  Michigan is 76 percent white.  Wisconsin is 83 percent white.  Iowa is 88 percent white.

If Obama gets less than 30 percent of the white vote in these states, he is toast.  And right now, the trend lines are not looking good for him.

On the other hand, Mitt Romney has be careful not to alienate the entire Hispanic community.  Florida’s non-Hispanic white vote percentage is only 58 percent.  Texas, shockingly, is only 45 percent.

This tells me two things.

First, Obama is in big danger of losing the Rust Belt in this coming election.

Second, Republicans better get a better message for Hispanic voters or they are going to be the minority party in two key GOP strongholds – Florida and Texas – in 2016.