President Barack Obama made history in his 2008 election victory as the first black U.S. president, but he risks achieving another, less welcome, first if he wins again in November.
Obama is on course to become the candidate with the lowest support from white male working class voters to win a U.S. election if he triumphs over Republican Mitt Romney on November 6.
Polls show support for Obama from white males without college degrees at under 30 percent, well below the 39 percent he had when he defeated Republican John McCain four years ago. While he has overwhelming support from Hispanics and blacks and does well among women, the Democratic president needs to shore up his backing among those men.
Richard Trumka, the most powerful U.S. union leader and an important bridge between the White House and blue-collar America, sees two solutions to Obama’s problems: mount labor’s largest voter outreach effort ever, and keep up the attacks on Romney’s business record.
“We’re absolutely going to do good work on the ground, mobilizing workers. We will have 400,000 volunteers this cycle,” Trumka, a former coal miner who is president of the 12-million-member AFL-CIO, the largest U.S. labor federation, told Reuters.
“We’ll be involved in 32 battleground states, up and down the ballot from Barack Obama, the House races, the Senate races, the state house and senate races,” he said.
“Will we get every one of them? No. But will we make a difference in our areas? Yes, we will. Voting for their own economic interests generally trumps any kind of clichés, hidden agendas or anything else. They vote in their own economic interest,” Trumka said.
“There’s no reason that there should be a white male, or a white, voter gap,” said Trumka, who called the auto rescue “a magnificent thing.”
A Washington Post survey last month showed Romney ahead by 65-28 percent among male voters who had not attended college, while a Quinnipiac University poll had him leading with 56 percent and the Democrat with 29 percent of that group, down from 32 percent earlier this year.
A quarter of AFL-CIO members did not vote for Obama in 2008.
“Some of this I think was pure racism,” said Trumka. “Some of them would be gun owners, some of them would be right-wing. Some of them would be . . . died-in-the-wool Republicans.”
Democrats acknowledge that Obama is unlikely to capture the white male vote, but say he can be re-elected if he minimizes the damage because of his huge edge with black and Hispanic voters.