At The New Republic, Andrew Levison and Ruy Teixeira explain why working class whites still matter to Democratic prospects.
First, in terms of sheer size, even at 36 percent of voters (and that is the exit poll figure—the Census data indicate a share about 8 points higher), the white working class remains one of the biggest sociologically distinct demographic groups that is now heavily part of the Red State/GOP coalition.
Second, a significant number of white working class voters have historic ties with the Democrats - even among those who currently vote Republican. Some have personal memories and others family traditions of past Democratic voting. No comparable connection or previous ideological affinity exists with today’s upper income or other Republican voters.
As a result, on both the positive side and on the negative side, the white working class has the potential to be a—if not the—decisive swing voter group for the future.
On the positive side, permanently increasing the level of Democratic support among white workers to just the 40 percent Obama received in 2008 (he received 36 percent in 2012) could actually ensure a genuinely stable and reliable Democratic majority for many years to come. On the negative side, if in 2016 white working class support for the Dems falls to or below the 33 percent it hit in 2010, a GOP president becomes a very real possibility. Not to mention the dire effects such low support would have on Democratic prospects in 2014: It would be essentially impossible for Democrats to retake the House and they might well lose the Senate in the bargain.