The Washington Post

Mitt Romney’s class problem

Romney’s campaign was originally premised on the idea that his experience as a venture capitalist with Bain Capital made him the perfect guy to lead the country at a time of economic difficulty. Obama’s campaign went after Romney’s business record, said he was indifferent to the average working American’s fate, and was hopeless biased toward the rich. Romney then played into the Obama campaign’s argument with his statement behind closed doors that 47 percent of Americans were hopelessly dependent on government.

What did the voters end up making of all this? The exit polls offered some clear evidence. Voters were asked if they thought the policies of each candidate would “generallly favor” the rich, the middle class, or the poor.

Their ruling on Obama: Only 10 percent said his policies favored the rich, while 44 percent said his policies favored the middle class and 31 percent said they favored the poor. Obama overwhelmingly won the last two groups.

Their ruling on Romney: 54 percent said his policies favored the rich while only 34 percent said they favored the middle class. A paltry 2 percent said Romney’s policies favored the poor.

Game and match to Obama

Moreover, a majority of the voters rejected a core Republican proposition: that the economy works on behalf of everyone. The voters were asked: “Do you think the U.S. economic system generally favors the wealthy, or is fair to most Americans?” The exit poll found that 55 percent said the economy favors the wealthy, while only 39 percent said it was fair to most Americans. Romney won three quarters of the ballots of those who think the economy is fair; Obama won nearly as big among those who said it favors the wealthy.

So attacks on “class warfare” politics turn out to be ineffective, because a majority thinks there is a class war, and that the wealthy are winning it.

E.J. Dionne writes about politics in a twice-weekly column and on the PostPartisan blog. He is also a senior fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, a government professor at Georgetown University and a frequent commentator on politics for National Public Radio, ABC’s “This Week” and NBC’s “Meet the Press.”


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