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Romney struggling to attract white working class
Romney pollster Neil Newhouse says his candidate’s early showing with the working class has been “a soft spot” because Santorum and Gingrich have targeted those same voters. That won’t translate to Election Day, Newhouse said.
Combined figures for the first five states to vote — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida and Nevada — show ideology was also a factor. Just 22 percent of Romney’s votes came from working-class whites who consider themselves very conservative. Santorum got 52 percent of his votes from that group and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Romney’s biggest rival at the time, got 45 percent.
Santorum swept GOP presidential contests in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri last week. There were no exit polls in those races, but the combined surveys for the first five states show Santorum, who had not yet built momentum as a candidate, trailing both Romney and Gingrich badly among white working-class voters.
Obama lost them badly in the Democratic primaries to rival Hillary Rodham Clinton before losing them by 18 percentage points to GOP candidate Sen. John McCain that November. Obama remedied that by coming close among white college graduates and prevailing overwhelmingly among minorities.
Republicans want to drive their margin among working-class whites as high as possible this year to offset Obama’s advantage with minorities. Working-class whites comprise around 4 in 10 voters in recent general elections.
“The essential question of the election is, ‘Who’s going to restore economic security for the middle class?’” LeBolt said.
The data is based on surveys conducted for The Associated Press and the television networks by Edison Research as voters arrived at or left randomly selected sites in this year’s GOP caucuses and primaries in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida and Nevada. The results of the five surveys were combined and each was weighted to reflect its share of the votes cast.
The combined survey involved interviews with 11,376 voters and had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 1 percentage point.
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