It's All Politics
4:15 pm
Fri October 19, 2012

White Men, A Key GOP Demographic, Discuss The Romney Appeal

Originally published on Fri October 19, 2012 6:12 pm

For all the attention paid to women in this race, there's another gender gap — with white men.

The Republican ticket of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan campaigned in northeastern Florida on Friday, where thousands of men had descended on Daytona Beach for the annual motorcycle festival Biketoberfest.

A bunch of them were at Willie's Tropical Tattoo smoking cigarettes, drinking beer and listening to music.

Gary Biser goes by the name "Moose." Stickers on his bike helmet say, "Life's too short to ride with ugly women," "No bar too far," and other things that can't be printed. He says he is resigned to voting for Mitt Romney.

"I don't have anybody else to choose for, but he's gonna be my man," Biser says.

Biser works in the coal mines of rural Maryland. He says these past four years have been a disaster.

"Well, they've dropped our wages down, they've dropped our medical, everything else. Price of gas and everything's up. Shouldn't be that way," Biser says.

In this crowd, which is largely white men, there's a lot of enthusiasm for Republican ideas. People are less excited about the Republican nominee.

"I wish the Republican Party would quit finding multibillionaires to run just so they could get their message across," says Jerry Willard, who recently retired here in Florida.

Whatever his feelings about Romney, Willard says he hates that Democrats are trying to cut more deeply into wealthy people's incomes.

"Have you ever been hired by somebody that was broke? Have you ever been hired by somebody that was poor? Have you ever been hired by someone that was on welfare or food stamps?" he asks. "I don't think I ever have. I don't think I'm ever gonna get there. So the question is: Who the heck hires us? People with money."

There's no question who's going to win the votes in this crowd. In the last election, Barack Obama carried only 41 percent of white men, according to exit polls. And that was a high water mark for Democrats. John Kerry got 37 percent of the white male vote; Al Gore took only 36 percent.

So the important question is how big a margin among white men Romney will get this year. There's a lot of pressure to do better than Republicans have done before, since minority groups are booming.

"We do spend a lot of time in Florida talking about the growing Hispanic population and the growing black population of voters, but as a practical matter, there still are more white voters in Florida than there are other groups," says Aubrey Jewett, a political scientist at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

Neither presidential candidate is a natural fit with this crowd, but they try. Obama welcomed NASCAR drivers to the White House back in April.

"These are some outstanding men. And it's true about the whole NASCAR organization," Obama said.

Romney made two rained-out attempts to see a race. Eventually he campaigned at the NASCAR Technical Institute in North Carolina.

"I only dreamed of cars like that. To have my name on a car like that is just too much," Romney said.

Perhaps it's no coincidence then that both men at the bottom of the ticket, Joe Biden and Paul Ryan, specialize in relating to working-class guys.

Even at Biketoberfest, this group is not a monolith. In the sea of sleeveless black T-shirts, tattoos and bandanas, one Obama supporter popped his head up.

"I like when they went after him for his birth certificate while he was going after bin Laden," says Ormond Beach, Fla., resident Bobby Sayward. "It's like this guy went right behind everybody's back and he got the job done. Why people don't vote for him is going to be an amazing thing to me."

In this sea of white men, the Obama voter is a true minority.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

I'm Robert Siegel and we begin this hour in the gender gap, but we're not talking about President Obama's lead among women. We're talking about Mitt Romney's lead among white men. Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, are campaigning in northeastern Florida today, where thousands of white men have descended on Daytona Beach for a motorcycle festival. As NPR's Ari Shapiro reports, Mitt Romney may have the support of many of these men, but he still doesn't have their passion.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: Thousands of motorcycle buffs from around the country have come to Daytona Beach, Florida, for the annual Biketoberfest. A bunch of them are here at Willie's Tropical Tattoo, smoking cigarettes, drinking beer and listening to music. Gary Biser goes by the name Moose. Stickers on his bike helmet say, Life's too short to ride with ugly women, No bar too far and other things that cannot be said on the radio.

SHAPIRO: He's resigned to voting for Mitt Romney.

GARY BISER: I don't have anybody else to choose for, but he's gonna be my man.

SHAPIRO: Biser works in the coal mines of rural Maryland. He says these last four years have been a disaster.

BISER: Well, they've dropped our wages down, they've dropped our medical, everything else. Price of gas and everything's up. Shouldn't be that way.

SHAPIRO: In this crowd, which is largely white men, there's a lot of enthusiasm for Republican ideas. People are less excited about the Republican nominee. Jerry Willard recently retired here in Florida.

JERRY WILLARD: I wish the Republican Party would quit finding multi-billionaires to run just so they could get their message across.

SHAPIRO: Whatever his feelings about Romney, this voter hates that Democrats are trying to cut more deeply into wealthy people's income.

WILLARD: Have you ever been hired by somebody that was broke? Have you ever been hired by somebody that was poor? Have you ever been hired by someone that was on welfare or food stamps? I don't think I ever have. I don't think I'm ever gonna get there, okay. So the question is, is who the heck hires us? People with money.

SHAPIRO: There's no question who's going to win the votes in this crowd. In the last election, Barack Obama carried only 41 percent of white men, and that was a high water mark for Democrats. John Kerry got 37 percent of the white male vote. Al Gore took only 36 percent. So the important question is how big a margin Romney will get this year. There's a lot of pressure to do better than Republicans have done before, since minority groups are booming.

Aubrey Jewett is a political scientist at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

AUBREY JEWETT: We do spend a lot of time in Florida talking about the growing Hispanic population and the growing black population of voters, but, you know, as a practical matter, there still are more white voters in Florida than there are other groups.

SHAPIRO: Neither presidential candidate is a natural fit with this crowd but they try. President Obama welcomed NASCAR drivers to the White House back in April.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: These are some outstanding men. And it's true about the whole NASCAR organization.

SHAPIRO: Mitt Romney made two rained-out attempts to see a race. Eventually, he campaigned at the NASCAR Technical Institute in North Carolina.

MITT ROMNEY: I only dreamed of cars like that. To have my name on a car like that is just too much.

SHAPIRO: Perhaps it's no coincidence then that both men at the bottom of the ticket specialize in relating to working class guys, Joe Biden and Paul Ryan. Even at Biketoberfest in Daytona Beach, Florida, this group is not a monolith. In the sea of sleeveless black T-shirts, tattoos and bandanas, one Obama supporter popped his head up.

BOBBY SAYWARD: I like when they went after him for his birth certificate while he was going after bin Laden.

SHAPIRO: Bobby Sayward lives in Ormand Beach, Florida.

SAYWARD: It's like this guy went right behind everybody's back and he got the job done. Why people don't vote for him is going to be an amazing thing for me.

SHAPIRO: In this sea of white men, the Obama voter is a true minority. Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Daytona Beach, Florida. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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