Obama's election year pitch leaves out white males 

President Obama's tricky, midterm election strategy relies on luring back the first-time voters who supported him in 2008 plus re-engaging women, blacks, young voters and Hispanics.

In a video message emailed to more than 13 million supporters, Obama said Democrats need a 2008 repeat.

"It will be up to each of you to make sure that the young people, African-Americans, Latinos and women, who powered our victory in 2008, stand together once again," Obama said. "It will be up to each of you to keep our nation moving forward."

Conservatives said the move was racially divisive -- asking rhetorically what would happen if a president called for unity among white voters to win an election. But the strategy reflects political reality. Polls show Obama's support among white males has dropped off -- in large part over economic issues and his health-care plan.

"I think a lot of white men, a few Republicans but mostly independents, are the people leaving Obama in droves," said Aubrey Jewett, a political scientist at the University of Central Florida. "Realistically the Democrats don't think they have a chance of getting them back between now and November."

Exit polls from the 2008 election showed Obama fared relatively well with white male voters, garnering 41 percent of white men and 43 percent of the white voters overall.

By contrast, John Kerry in 2004 won 37 percent of white male voters and 41 percent of all white voters. Al Gore in 2000 picked up 35 percent of the white male vote and 42 percent of the total white vote.

But with polls showing Obama's job approval among men lagging women by 10 points and by a similar margin among white voters compared to the electorate, the Obama White House is looking elsewhere for votes.

"It's always a tough race if you're the incumbent in this kind of economic environment," Obama said.

And without Obama on the ballot in November, persuading his 2008 supporters back to the polls will prove a major challenge for the Democratic Party, particularly among the 2008 first-time voters and young voters.

Exit polls in New Jersey and Virginia statewide races last year showed a significant drop-off among younger voters compared with 2008. Just nine percent of voters under 30 turned out in New Jersey, compared with 17 percent in 2008.

To that end, the White House is pushing climate legislation and immigration reform -- keyed to specific special interests -- as another way to drum up support in the fall.

How far the administration is willing to push on either issue remains an open question. The long-awaited climate legislation fell apart over the weekend, after Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a key backer, dropped his support over a concurrent push for immigration reform.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs declined to say which measure Obama would prefer to see completed first, saying the administration would like to see progress on both fronts.

Republican strategist Alex Conant noted the White House has yet to offer any policy draft on immigration reform, suggesting the administration wants to use the issue in the campaign without officially tackling it.

"This is an extremely political White House and no doubt the president's advisors view immigration within the political context of dividing Republicans and picking up some votes while publicly pushing it," Conant said.

jmason@washingtonexaminer.com

 

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