Can Mitt Romney and President Obama connect with an electorate full of jobless Americans?
In a Google Plus question and answer session last month President Obama, talking to a woman whose husband is an unemployed engineer, urged her to send her husband’s resume to the White House. A few weeks earlier, Romney gave cash out of his pocket to an unemployed African-American woman who came to one of his events.
Romney’s response was perhaps more cringe-worthy, but neither was exactly pitch perfect. If Romney is the GOP nominee, as expected, he will have to confront out-of-work Americans throughout the year who come to his campaign events and want a path out of poverty, and he can’t give them all money.
Obama will face a similar challenge. The president constantly talks about the letters from jobless Americans that he receives and reads each day, but when he seriously hits the campaign trail later this year, he will experience a new challenge when people ask him questions in person about their relatives’ plights in a struggling economy.
And the president can’t collect all their resumes and promise to find them jobs.
To be sure, Obama has the most direct connections with the real economy of these two candidates. He joked in 2008 about only recently paying off his college loans and did not grow up in a wealthy home.
Romney, on the other hand, transitioned from the life of the son of the governor to Harvard to making millions at Bain Capital, with little time struggling to make ends meet.
That said, perhaps no place in America is more isolated than the White House. If his aides aren’t already doing so, Obama’s team probably will have to make sure the president is updated on the price of gas, milk and other goods that he no longer has to purchase so he can be conversant with voters.
Romney’s team, similarly, must get the candidate not to declare he isn’t as concerned about the “very poor,” as he did in a recent interview.
Follow Perry Bacon Jr. on Twitter at @perrybaconjr