President Barack Obama’s Midwest trip this week has allowed him to address a central challenge for his re-election: His popularity has slumped among white voters–particularly young, poor and working-class Americans–as Washington has struggled to help boost economic growth.
On the first two days of his bus tour in rural Minnesota and Iowa, Mr. Obama has pitched a basket of long-discussed ideas, promoted small changes the administration can make on its own and promised to put forth a “very specific plan” in September to boost the economy, create jobs and control the deficit.
The moves are targeted at voters who supported the president in 2008 but now are shying away from him. That problem seems particularly acute for the president among white working-class voters, whose support was shaky in the last election and whose allegiances are traditionally dictated by their pocketbooks.
White working-class voters rarely favor Democrats, and Mr. Obama lost this group by 18 percentage points in 2008. But the Republican advantage widened to 30 points in 2010. Mr. Obama will need to narrow that gap to win re-election.
Other segments of the white vote are also moving to the GOP, according to the surveys by the Pew Research Center, including young whites, those with less than a high-school education and voters earning less than $30,000. The latter group favored Democrats by 15 points in 2008; they now back the GOP by four points.