Michael Barone

That's part of a pattern of political payoffs. Unions spent $400 million to elect Democrats in 2008. In return, one-third of stimulus money went to state governments -- a payoff to public employee unions -- and bondholders were deprived of their legal rights in the auto bailouts in favor of the United Auto Workers, an episode I called "gangster government."

Or you call it "the Chicago way." Why should government contracts go to people who lost the election? The only problem is that people in the suburbs don't like it.

There's evidence that Obama has already lost many affluent voters. The popular vote in House elections is a good proxy for presidential and party support, and voters with incomes over $100,000, evenly split in 2008, voted 58 to 40 percent for Republicans in 2010.

Northern Virginia, which Obama carried 59 to 40 percent and which provided 95 percent of his statewide popular vote margin, went 52 to 47 percent for House Republicans in 2010. Nine suburban Denver counties voted 53 to 46 percent for Obama but switched in 2010 to 54 to 42 percent Republican.

Virginia and Colorado are on everyone's target state list. But Obama also hurt the Democratic brand among affluent voters in other states.

The four suburban counties outside Philadelphia voted 57 to 42 percent for Obama but 52 to 47 percent Republican in 2010. The six suburban counties outside Detroit voted 54 to 45 percent for Obama but 53 to 44 percent Republican in 2010. That means Pennsylvania and Michigan could be in play.

Affluent suburbs outside the South trended heavily toward Democrats from 1992 to 2008. Now they seem to be trending Republican.

And, as it happens, Republicans have a nominee who demonstrated affirmative appeal in affluent suburbs in primary after primary. They were the base on which he won the nomination.

Romney's background as the son of an auto company president has been treated as a liability. But his record as a market innovator and private equity investor (without inherited money, by the way) may be a plus.

"This is what the campaign is about," Obama said of the Bain ads. That might not go over well in affluent suburbs.

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