WASHINGTON — Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney lost by double-digit margins among downscale voters in Colorado, the same bloc that gave a majority of its votes to President Bush in 2004, enabling him to carry the state.
Romney did 14 points worse among Colorado voters without a college education than Bush, according to exit polls that Edison Research of Somerville, N.J. conducted for the National Election Pool, a consortium of major media outlets.
The former Massachusetts governor received the support of 44 percent of the state’s non-college educated votes. By contrast, Bush had garnered 58 percent. Romney’s wide losses among this group were especially damaging to his chances of winning Colorado, as the bloc represented more than half of those who cast ballots this year.
Romney did even worse among a key subgroup within the non-college educated bloc — Coloradans who said they had some college education. He received 43 percent of their votes, while Bush got 58 percent.
Romney also performed poorly among a related group of voters: those who make $30,000 to $49,999 a year. While Bush garnered 53 percent of their votes in 2004, Romney received 37 percent. Even Sen. John McCain got the support of 48 percent of the state’s working-class voters in his unsuccessful presidential bid four years ago.
Romney’s uneasy relationship with downscale voters was a theme of the president campaign. In mid-September, Mother Jones magazine released a secretly recorded video on its website in which Romney told a group of affluent donors that he stood little chance of winning these voters over to his side, saying that 47 percent of Americans are “dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims” and “wiill vote for the president no matter what.”
Dick Wadhams, former state chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, attributed Romney’s weak showing among downscale voters to his failure to respond forcefully to the Obama campaign’s attack ads this summer and early fall.
“This is another indication that what was done to Romney this summer, when President Obama’s campaign attacked him over (his tenure at the venture capital firm) Bain Capital and his comments about the 47 percent of people who depend on government, hurt him badly. All these were rather personally vicious attack ads,” he said.
“Unfortunately, the Romney campaign did not respond, nor did it depict him as the good person he is or the successful business owner he was.” Wadhams added that while Romney recovered after his strong debate performance Oct. 3 in Denver, he could not overcome the perception that he was “an uncaring, swashbuckling, corporate raider.”
There is evidence to support Wadhams’ thesis. In swing states such as Colorado where Obama’s ads aired heavily over the summer and early fall, Romney did worse among downscale voters than nationally. He did three points worse among voters without a college diploma and five points worse among those with some college education.
Romney lost Colorado 46.5 percent to Obama’s 51.3 percent.
In the days following Romney’s defeat, political pundits and experts said the governor failed to appeal to Hispanic, female, and young voters. Romney did lose female voters 48-51 and Hispanics 23-75 to Obama in Colorado; as of press time, figures for voters 18-29 in the state were unavailable.
Romney’s losses among those voting blocs fit the prevailing media narrative. In an interview last year with National Journal, Obama campaign chairman David Axelrod said the campaign would appeal to women,
minorities, and socially liberal upscale voters as part of a successful “Colorado strategy” that Sen. Michael Bennet used in his election bid two years ago.
But a closer look at the exit polls in Colorado as well as two other swing states yields another conclusion. Romney was unable to assemble the coalition of working-class and affluent voters that Republican presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and both Bush’s put together in their successful presidential campaigns.
Compared to those Republican nominees, Romney lost more votes in Colorado among working- and middle-class voters than among women, minorities, and the young.
For example, while Romney lost female voters in Colorado by 3 percentage points to Obama, he lost by 16 points among voters without a college degree. Both groups were 51 percent of the Centennial State’s electorate.
A related scenario occurred in Ohio and Nevada, two of the eight states that were considered tossups this election. Romney received 42 percent of the non-college educated vote in Nevada and 46 percent in Ohio. Although he received slightly less support among female voters in those states, a significantly higher percentage of voters there did not posses a college diploma than were female. In Nevada, 53 percent of voters were female while 58 did not have a college degree; in Ohio, 52 percent of voters were female and 60 percent did not have a college diploma.
To highlight the extent of Romney’s decline among downscale voters, the former governor received less support among white voters in Colorado than nationally or Bush in 2004. He garnered 54 percent of the white vote in the state and 59 percent nationally. Bush received 57 percent of the white vote overall.
Wadhams said there was “virtually unanimity” among Republican operatives this summer that the Romney campaign failed to respond forcefully to the Obama campaign’s negative ads. He said he plans to talk more with his colleagues in the days ahead but that getting over the disappointment is difficult. “It’s frustrating. He (Romney) was a good man and would have been a great leader,” he said.