The Washington Post

Campaign should not be black and white

A complicated and challenging aspect to the presidential campaign revealed itself on the front page of The Washington Post this morning. One story details Mitt Romney's huge lead among financially struggling white middle-class voters. According to the most recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, white voters who say they are feeling economic strain favor Romney 58 to 32 percent. This is surprising given the early stage of the race and since Romney was not the universal choice of this voter segment during the primaries.

The poll suggests that these voters have made up their minds about President Obama and that they are ready to support his opponent. The numbers are consistent with the final vote totals for Sen. John Kerry in 2004 and Al Gore in 2000. However, it is surprising that the numbers are so bad for Obama this early in the race against an opponent who is supposed to lack the ability to connect with middle-class voters.

Elsewhere on the front page, there is a story about Romney receiving a hostile reception during a campaign visit to a poor black neighborhood in Philadelphia. Romney couldn't be under any illusions about winning much African American support, but it is discouraging that his visit was greeted with open hostility rather than the usual bracketing by opposing surrogates or even a collective yawn. Instead, prominent elected officials ranted while protesters insisted that he "get out."  The Washington Post quoted one woman saying she was "personally offended" by Romney's presence.

Romney's outreach is unlikely to win over many African Americans. But he's right to try. And the complaints against him during the event yesterday were off-key and over the top. If Romney wins the election, he will be the president of all Americans. We can't have arrived at a point where a presidential candidate is pointedly discouraged from visiting any community in this country by that community's leaders. The 2012 campaign already promises to be a mean and ugly. What do thoughtful readers think that the Obama and Romney campaign should do about it?

Ed Rogers is a contributor to the PostPartisan blog, a political consultant and a veteran of the White House and several national campaigns. He is the chairman of the lobbying and communications firm BGR Group, which he founded with former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour in 1991.
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