Stan Greenberg, James Carville, Erica Seifert write about the need for Obama to steer away from the economic language of the policy elites and to focus on the future of the middle class.

What is clear from this fresh look at public consciousness on the economy is how difficult this period has been for both non-college-educated and college-educated voters - and how vulnerable the prevailing narratives articulated by national Democratic leaders are.  We will face an impossible head wind in November if we do not move to a new narrative, one that contextualizes the recovery but, more importantly, focuses on what we will do to make a better future for the middle class. 

It is elites who are creating a conventional wisdom that an incumbent president must run on his economic performance - and therefore must convince voters that things are moving in the right direction.  They are wrong, and that will fail.  The voters are very sophisticated about the character of the economy; they know who is mainly responsible for what went wrong and they are hungry to hear the President talk about the future.  They know we are in a new normal where life is a struggle - and convincing them that things are good enough for those who have found jobs is a fool’s errand. They want to know the plans for making things better in a serious way - not just focused on finishing up the work of the recovery. 

We are losing these voters on the economy, but holding on because Romney is very vulnerable.  They do not trust him because of who he is for and because he’s out of touch with ordinary people; he is vulnerable on the Ryan budget and its impact on people; he is vulnerable on the choices over taxes.  But in the current context, it produces a fairly diminished embrace of Obama and the Democrats, the lesser of two evils, without much feeling of hope. 

But we underscore the sentiment they expressed in the postcards to the President they wrote at the end of the exercise: overwhelmingly, these voters want to know that he understands the struggle of working families and has plans to make things better.

With the economy faltering, we conducted fairly open-ended focus groups among white non-college-educated voters in Columbus, Ohio and college-educated suburban voters in suburban Philadelphia.  We excluded strong partisans from both camps.  These were all independents or weak partisans and ticket-splitters—swing independent voters—and the groups included an even mix of 2008 Obama and McCain voters.

For an in-depth analysis, please click here to view the Democracy Corps report.

focus by Stan Greenberg, James Carville, Erica Seifert