Barack Obama has problems with many white voters. Much of that is spread by the disinformation that he was born in Kenya or is a Muslim. Strangely, some are not as troubled by that as Mitt Romney’s wealth.
Here is the case of Sheryl Harris, a 52-year-old Virginian Baptist who voted for George W. Bush twice. She believes that Obama is a Muslim, but she is voting for him anyway.
“Romney’s going to help the upper class,” said Harris, who earns $28,000 a year as activities director of a Lynchburg senior center. “He doesn’t know everyday people, except maybe the person who cleans his house.”
She’ll vote for Obama, she said: “At least he wasn’t brought up filthy rich.”
Of course, George W. Bush wasn’t brought up poor either. The Bush family has a long history in national politics going back to his grandfather who was a Senator.
Yet Romney is very wealthy, perhaps too wealthy for a small, but sizable portion of the white population that would normally support a conservative candidate.
After four years of Obama, the economic recovery may still be limping but the economy hasn’t crashed. Neither has the “Muslim” Obama shut down churches and banned Christian worship. Oddly, there seems to be a comfort level with Obama because he is the incumbent. It comes down to the likability factor. Obama is a family man raising two daughters in the White House. His personal life and administration is relatively scandal free, although his critics try to claim he is some type of gay, drug-abusing foreign usurper.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll found that 35% of Southern white voters with incomes less than $55,000 would be less likely to vote for a Mormon. Plus, 38% of these voters said they would be less likely to vote for someone who is very wealthy. Contrast that with just 20% of white voters who said they would be less likely to vote for someone who is African-American.
Perhaps these voters are ashamed to admit their racial prejudice. That would mean the anti-African American vote is higher. Even then, it is unlikely to exceed the anti-Mormon and wealth sentiment of these voters.
While a majority of these voters support Romney over Obama, Romney needs to run up strong numbers with these voters to be elected because Obama has even higher support among minorities.
A strong minority of the Southern white voters share a prejudice against both presidential candidates. Prejudices cannot be cancelled out by campaigning. They are ingrained deep within the personality and take years to clear out. Unfortunately for Romney, the prejudices appear deeper than those against Obama. This is another obstinate roadblock in front of the Romney campaign. It also helps explain Obama’s strength in Virginia and North Carolina, and the support that keeps him within 10 percentage points of Romney in places like Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee and Missouri.
Selecting a candidate who is wealthy to guide the nation out of economic doldrums may sound like a good idea logically. However, on an emotional level, struggling people have a hard time relating to someone who goes through life with Cayman Island bank accounts and multiple houses. As campaign time before the election decreases, it is becoming increasingly unlikely that Romney can relate to enough voters to win.