Michael Barone

Those latter figures are not, as some analysts seem to think, etched in stone. The financial crisis and recession have switched voters' focus from cultural issues to the economy. The gap between Obama's proposed top tax rate of over 40 percent and the Republicans' 28 percent is wider than any since the 1980s.

The cold gray numbers tell us that Romney has an affirmative appeal to this constituency. He has run 4 to 12 points ahead of his statewide average among over $100,000 voters in every exit poll.

He carried affluent Oakland County northwest of Detroit, where he grew up, by 31,565 votes. He carried the rest of Michigan by 413. In Ohio, he carried the mostly affluent vote in the counties containing Cleveland and Cincinnati by 31,682 votes -- three times his statewide margin.

I sense that affluent voters find Romney a kindred spirit -- articulate but politically awkward, self-disciplined and successful, able to make a sharp argument but polite. He's conservative on cultural issues, but in a way that reminds me of the 18th century Englishwoman's gravestone noting approvingly that "she was religious without enthusiasm."

Barack Obama's appeal to high-education and young voters in the Virginia, North Carolina and Indiana primaries carried over into the general election. He carried all three in November, though none was a target state in 2000 or 2004.

Will Romney's appeal to high-education and high-income voters carry over to the general election, too? That's not clear.

But the Pew poll tells us that Republican party identification has risen 9 points from 2008 among Jewish voters -- a small but important part of this constituency. And exit polls show that Catholics, another important part, have gone for Romney in all but two Southern states.

The cold gray numbers don't tell us for sure. But they suggest that affluent voters may be up for grabs this year.


Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM