Obama Tries to Recapture Blue Collar Votes

“The word I have is that they are not coming this year.”

-- Massachusetts State Police Sergeant Thomas Medeiros talking to the Boston Globe about the Obama family skipping their usual summertime trip to Martha’s Vineyard, a wealthy enclave off the coast of Cape Cod.

President Obama hits the campaign trail again today, back aboard his blacked-out, armored, swing-state bus and again targeting the middle-income voters who are currently proving most problematic for his re-election bid.

Obama’s two-state tour covers some of the same territory that Republican rival Mitt Romney hit in his own bus tour last month. Ohio and Pennsylvania, both very much in play, are shaping up to be the ultimate battlegrounds for the fall election.

Obama has chosen to start his tour in Maumee, Ohio, a suburb of Toledo, one of the regions that benefited the most from his decision to bail out and partially nationalize Chrysler.

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Chrysler subsidiary Jeep has been the brightest spot in the story of the $12.5 billion bailout of the company. Jeep was the strongest Chrysler brand prior to the collapse of the firm in 2009 and has continued to be the jewel in the company’s crown.

Obama’s argument is that Chrysler, now mostly owned by Italian carmaker Fiat with a considerable ownership share by the United Auto Workers, would have closed its Toledo operations, not expanded them had it not been for the bailout and restructuring.

Conservatives argue that Jeep might be doing even better today had Chrysler been allowed to sink beneath the weight of its massive debts and unprofitable business model.

Jeep would likely have been snatched up by another car maker, as it was when American Motors, a company once led by Romney’s father, eventually collapsed. The conservative argument is that Jeep would have gotten a new labor contract and lots of cash, making the path to profitability smoother.

But in Democrat-leaning, union stronghold Lucas County, the bailout is nothing but upside. And nationally, while many middle-class voters find little to like in Obama’s policies, the unprecedented intervention to prop up failed automakers GM and Chrysler is seen as one of the president’s best moments.

Vice President Joe Biden summed up Obama’s re-election pitch: Usama bin Laden is dead and the bailed-out automakers are alive. Obama went to Afghanistan on the anniversary of bin Laden’s death to emphasize the first part. He is in Lucas County and later Mahoning County, home of a GM plant, to emphasize the second.

The only Republican to win Lucas County in the modern era was Ronald Reagan, and he did so twice. Obama choosing to campaign there is a strong indication of the concern he has about the blue-collar Reagan Democrats who have been one of his biggest problems.

These voters also were part of Hillary Clinton’s base in 2008. They are more moderate than Obama’s liberal core supporters and the president’s decision to not move to the middle following the Democratic rout of 2010 has not sat well with this core constituency.

If moderate Romney can beat Obama with these middle-income folks in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Iowa it sets up the possibility of a big victory for the Republican. Romney is already playing well with the upper-income families in the suburbs. Add in these Reagan/Clinton voters, and Obama would get wiped out in the Rust Belt.

Obama today will be touting a complaint to be filed by his administration against the Chinese for tariffs on U.S. cars. This move is unlikely to produce much in the way of action, but reinforces his pitch on manufacturing and cars.

It also reinforces his pitch that Romney is, in the words of an Obama ad, “a vampire.” Obama, with the help of a new spate of articles in the establishment press, has focused relentlessly on Romney’s wealth and the overseas ventures of the firms that were restructured by Bain Capital, the private equity firm he led from 1984 to 1999.

While the harsh tone of the Obama campaign put off some moderate Democrats, the president has persisted in his scorched-earth strategy. His plan depends on making Romney unacceptable to voters in places like Maumee and Youngstown. Now, he looks to collect by firing up the Democratic base in these communities.

Obama hopes to convince voters that even if they think Romney would be better at dealing with the economy, he is unfit for office, someone who wants to drink the economic blood of the working class while benefiting his fellow offshore account holders.

Romney, conversely, is trying hard to convince these voters that Obama, who lacks any private-sector experience, has botched the recovery and can’t deal with the economy.

If the economy stays in its current skid, Romney’s pitch may be enough. Even a vampire might seem preferable.

And Now, A Word From Charles

“KRAUTHAMMER: I'd put it over Canada, perhaps, but not over us.  

ROBERTS:  Why would you do that?  

KRAUTHAMMER:  Well, the war of 1812.  

ROBERTS:  Are you still fighting that?  

KRAUTHAMMER:  Some of us keep grudges for a long time.”

-- American born Charles Krauthammer talking with Canadian born John Roberts on “Special Report with Bret Baier,” discussing unmanned drones being subject to remote hijacking.

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News, and his POWER PLAY column appears Monday-Friday on FoxNews.com.