Obama and McCain Fighting Over Middle-Class Vote

As the election draws closer, the votes of middle-class Americans are becoming increasingly important. That’s why the Associated Press sent a reporter to the aptly named Middletown, Ohio (ooh it’s in a swing state too) to get a read on middle-class sentiments. We’ve skipped over all the Joe-the-Plumber-esque anecdotes, though. They’re a bit too folksy for us.

More importantly, the AP says, both candidates are stressing how their economic proposals will affect the middle class and how this actually-diverse voting bloc is feeling the effects of the economic downturn.

AP: With the U.S. economy worsening from the credit crunch, the housing slump and job cuts, both candidates have been aiming final appeals toward the middle class.

“Which candidate does a better job understanding the middle class, offering programs and plans that would benefit those citizens, that’s really what this campaign is about at this stage,” said Herb Asher, an Ohio State University political scientist.

That’s why Obama convened a “jobs summit” in Florida and why McCain warned voters in Colorado that Obama would put the middle class “through the wringer.” It’s why Obama calls his economic proposals “a rescue plan for the middle class” and why McCain has virtually made “Joe the Plumber” part of his ticket, representing workers with a middle-class dream of being their own boss but worried that Obama’s tax plan would make it more difficult.

Obama says he’ll cut taxes for the middle class and create millions of jobs through renewable energy and infrastructure projects. McCain says he wants to keep taxes down for everyone, including the rich and businesses, to stimulate overall economic growth to the benefit of what he called “the great American middle class.”

The middle class is hardly a monolithic voting bloc, though, divided by race, religion and a variety of issues such as abortion, Asher notes. There’s not even a standard definition of middle class, which by income is considered as a wide range of annual household earnings from more than $30,000 to the low six figures, ranging higher or lower depending on the local cost of living.

However, most Americans identify themselves as middle class. It’s sometimes described as a state of mind, one of a comfortable life with such attributes as a nice home, late-model car, education opportunities for children, and security. For many, that comfort level is being rocked by the worst downturn since the Great Depression.

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