The Spectacle Blog

The Economy and the VP

By on 7.24.08 | 10:13AM

That NBC/WSJ poll I noted below also found that 60 percent of voters want McCain to pick a running mate who is an expert on the economy.

Some think that this strengthens the case for Mitt Romney, but as I point out in my article on the main site, his advantages among economic voters are overstated:

ROMNEY'S BOOSTERS OFTEN make the mistake of assuming that just because he has a strong business background, that he will be able to appeal to voters who are concerned about the economy. But the data doesn't support this view.

Romney was able to turn economic jitters to his advantage in the Michigan primary (after pledging $20 billion in subsidies for the auto industry), but he wasn't able to gain much traction on the issue elsewhere. In Florida, for instance, despite targeted messaging emphasizing his business credentials, Romney lost to McCain among voters who considered the economy the most important issue, 40 percent to 32 percent.

A deeper look at his performance in the primaries shows that Romney's appeal was stronger among higher-income voters than it was among the type of working class voters who will determine the election. Also, Romney consistently did substantially worse among those who thought the economy was "not good or poor" than he did among people who thought it was "excellent or good." In an electoral environment in which Americans are increasingly pessimistic about the state of the economy, this would be trouble.

While Romney's strong business background was an asset during the Republican primaries, it could backfire in the general election. Democrats will point to Romney's vast fortune to make their case that Republicans are the party of the rich, and out of touch with the economic concerns of ordinary Americans. In his 1994 U.S. Senate race against Ted Kennedy, Romney was torpedoed by television ads featuring workers who said they lost their jobs when he took over their companies.

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