In contrast, Barack Obama has started to flail. His know-nothing assault on the Supreme Court and his demagogic denunciation of “social Darwinism” (a phrase more common on campus than in real life) make him look like he’s appealing to ignorant voters. Ditto his attacks on the rich.
Affluent voters don’t like that. That’s not what suburban supporters of Obama thought they were voting for in 2008.
They may not like Obama’s refusal to engage the looming entitlements crisis, either. They don’t admire people who act irresponsibly.
If Romney’s strength among the affluent opens up a new opportunity for Republicans, his and his primary opponents’ weakness among the young highlights a problem.
Under-30s were 18 percent of the electorate in 2008 and voted 66 to 32 percent for Obama.
Many are disenchanted with him now, but very few showed up in Republican contests. Only 6 to 12 percent of Republican primary voters were under 30. Leaving out Ron Paul voters, they were only 4 to 10 percent of Republican turnout.
Moreover, Romney carried under-30s only in Florida, Arizona, Massachusetts and Wisconsin.
He may owe that last result to the wholehearted endorsement of Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan. The House Budget Committee chairman makes a powerful case that young people can’t count on promised benefits unless entitlement programs are reformed.
There is a huge tension between the personalize-your-own-world ethos of the iPod/Facebook generation and the command-and-control, mid-20th-century welfare-state programs of the Obama Democrats.
The young are stuck with disproportionate insurance premiums by Obamacare and with student-loan debt that can’t be discharged in bankruptcy. Some hope. Some change.
Romney needs to make the case that current policy — what Obama has fallen back on — is leading to a crash in which government will fail to keep its promises.
He needs to argue that his “opportunity society” means vibrant economic growth that can provide, in ways that can’t be precisely predicted, opportunities in which young people can find work that draws on their special talents and interests.
Obama’s policies, in contrast, treat individuals as just one cog in a very large machine, designed by supposed experts who don’t seem to know what they’re doing (see Obamacare, Solyndra). Their supposedly cutting-edge technology (electric cars, passenger rail) is more than a century old.
Romney, potentially strong with the affluent, needs to figure out how to get through to the young.
— Michael Barone is senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner. © 2012 the Washington Examiner