China’s growth is another worry to these voters, because they’ve seen jobs and sales exported to Chinese companies. “People who are working class are worried about their [short-term] future, their ability to compete … and connecting with them means connecting with those worries while not being Pollyanish,” Olsen said.
These voters also want to be respected, not dismissed, by politicians, he added.
Rep. Paul Ryan is respected by these voters, partly because he grew up in a working-class home, and has won elections in a traditionally Democratic district, said Olsen. He understands that those voters “want [government] to remove the obstacles to let them get ahead … [and] understands they have decent lives that are worth living.”
Obama’s ratings with these voters have fallen into the 30s because of the poor economy, but also because he “doesn’t convey to people that he holds their values,” Olsen said. “His detachment — his analytical style — hurts him among less-educated voters.”
But so far, he noted, the Republican candidates have failed to connect with non-college voters.
Texas Gov. Rick “Perry [has] shown little inclination to make this case. … [Newt] Gingrich could because he comes from a very humble background, but he would need to demonstrate a degree of humility [and that] would be something he would have to make an effort to do.”
“The book is out on Romney,” Olsen said. “His background is of reserve, rather than expression,” and his personal charm “is not something that comes across in chance [media] interviews.” But, he added, Romney has shown that he can connect with people, and likely has done so when he was a leader of the Mormon Church in Massachusetts.
To connect with non-college voters, Romney “has got to take a risk. If he doesn’t take the risk to open up, he’s not going to connect with people, and he’ll be taking to their heads, not their hearts.”
But Romney doesn’t have much time to reach non-college voters, partly because Obama’s campaign is trying hard to portray him as an out-of-touch elitist who wanted the auto industry to go bankrupt, wants to damage veterans’ health-care programs and who worked as a Wall Street banker exporting Americans’ jobs overseas.
Romney, said Olsen, “has another six to eight months to make a case.”