Fatal Flaw? Romney's Disconnect with Middle Class

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -- With several important primaries coming up next week, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney appears to be on his way to winning the Republican nomination.

But even though he's the Republican front-runner, political analysts note that Romney still has a problem connecting to many voters.

He's had a hard time winning white working class voters in crucial Midwestern and Southern states.

In Ohio for example, while he does well among people making over $100,000 a year, they made up only 23 percent of voters. A much larger 55 percent of voters made between $30,000 and $100,000, and among that group he lost handily.

Romney, meanwhile, insists there's not a problem.

"I don't think that I have any challenge whatsoever connecting with people on an emotional level," he said. "I do believe that people want to have someone that who understands how to get the economy going again."

That philosophy has worked well for Romney so far. Voters consistently say they want someone who can turn the economy around.

"Having a guy that's successful in business is what we need," one Ohio resident said.

"He's a very smart businessman. He knows what he's doing. I'm a manufacturing guy and he's going to bring back manufacturing in America," one New Hampshire business man said.

Romney's ability to spend more money against his opponents has also helped. But candidates like former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum told CBN News that his money is masking a larger problem.

"Mitt Romney is not going to be able to win the race in the general election by outspending his opponent. 12 to 1," Santorum said. "He obviously has a problem."

"He's not connecting with the people he has to connect with, and he's not getting their support," the former senator continued. "He's not getting the enthusiasm."

"And so where are you when this is all over? You have a candidate who won't have as much money as Obama, won't have a message that appeals, won't be a candidate that connects with people," Santorum concluded.

What most do know is that according to recent polls, Romney has a hard time connecting to middle class voters in places like Ohio and elsewhere around the country.

The question going forward for the former governor whether he can bring those voters into the Republican fold in 2012 - the same voters that voted for President Barack Obama in 2008.

The current commander in chief is definitely vulnerable when it comes to winning the white working class vote. He lost that demographic by 18 points in 2008. His approval rating among them sits at 43 percent.

It's an opportunity for Romney if he can seal the deal with this key group.

"The question is not whether they're going to support President Obama. I think he's going to have a problem with that," Youngstown State University's Paul Sracic told CBN News. "The question is are they going to cross over and vote for the Republican candidate - and it would be crossing over."

"These are Democratic voters whether Romney's their candidate, whether he can sort of reach them. The problem is he comes off as an East Coast businessman, and that's not the kind of politician that appeals to them," Sracic said.

That's a problem Romney may have to deal with in a few months if he's the nominee. But for now, he's just trying to claw his way to victory against his Republican rivals.

*Originally published on March 30, 2012

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David Brody is an Emmy Award-winning veteran news journalist who has interviewed many prominent national figures during his career of nearly 25 years. Currently, David covers the White House and interviews national newsmakers across the country.  Follow David on Twitter @TheBrodyFile and "like" him at Facebook.com/TheBrodyFile.