Back in April 2008, Michael Barone’s “geographic analysis” of the primaries that had taken place at that point in the contest for the Democratic nomination and found “a divide between Democratic constituencies—a divide as stark as that between blacks and Latinos or the old and the young—which has not shown up in the exit polls”:
That’s the divide between academics and Jacksonians. In state after state, we have seen Obama do extraordinarily well in academic and state capital enclaves. In state after state, we have seen Clinton do extraordinarily well in enclaves dominated by Jacksonians [Appalachian voters mostly white].
Academics and public employees (and of course many, perhaps most, academics in the United States are public employees) love the arts of peace and hate the demands of war. Economically, defense spending competes for the public-sector dollars that academics and public employees think are rightfully their own. More important, I think, warriors are competitors for the honor that academics and public employees think rightfully belongs to them. Jacksonians, in contrast, place a high value on the virtues of the warrior and little value on the work of academics and public employees.
In the fall, John McCain would edge Barack Obama in a “Jacksonian” district where, in 2004, John Kerry beat George W. Bush by 8,000 votes, Pennsylvania’s 12th district, in the Southwest corner of the state. (Interestingly, in his 1984 landslide, Ronald Reagan lost many counties in that region, that, in his 2008 defeat, McCain would carry.)
Perhaps if it were not for the market meltdown which hurt McCain in the suburbs, Obama’s weakness among “Jacksonians” might have cost him the election. This year, as Barone has noted, at least since the Michigan primary at the end of February, Mitt Romney has done very well in affluent suburbs and seems to have, as the sage pundit reported earlier this week, translated that strength from the primary into the general election campaign:
A pro-Romney affluent swing is confirmed by the internals of some national polls. The 2008 exit poll showed Obama narrowly carrying voters with incomes over $75,000. Post-debate Pew Research and Battleground polls have shown affluent suburbanite Romney carrying them by statistically significant margins.
In particular, college-educated women seem to have swung toward Romney since Oct. 3. He surely had them in mind in the foreign policy debate when he kept emphasizing his hopes for peace and pledged no more wars like Iraq and Afghanistan.
Now, combine this swing in affluent suburbs with Obama’s failure to do well in “Jacksonian” America (where even Walter Mondale and John Kerry did well) and you see a potential Romney victory. Reagan won the suburban counties surrounding Philadelphia in both 1980 and 1984, but didn’t do as well in southwestern Pennsylvania asC McCain did.
If voters in those “Jacksonian” counties retain their distaste for the Chicago “academic,” and Romney does well (even if not quite as well as the Gipper in the 1980s) in the suburban counties around Philadelphia, then what the most recent Democratic governor of the Keystone State calls a “possibility” could become a reality.