On MSNBC last night, Hardball host Chris Matthews and former Clinton pollster Mark Penn spoke at length about voting demographics, particularly among uneducated white men. The pair was also joined by Mark Cooper of the National Journal.
Noting that President Obama struggled to earn support from men, Matthews noted Wisconsin exit polls that showed a "pretty depressing drop of eight points" among men.
"If you look at this, I think, particularly, southern, white, older men, they're probably out of reach," Penn noted, suggesting that Obama pursue the "suburban better-educated men who can appreciate a president like President Obama."
"So you go after the more sensitive males, the less macho males, is that what you're saying?" Matthews questioned.
Matthews then asked Penn lengthy question, painting a picture of working class men in a bar.
"I always imagine driving along an old highway, like Route 40 or something, not 95 or 70 or 80, but a regular old highway, interstate, and you stop and you see a little bar along the way, where men go after a hard day's work, maybe their there late on a Friday night talking at the bar," he began. "What are they saying about Obama? Working guys. What do you think those conversations are like?"
"I think those conversations are pretty rough. I think I probably couldn't repeat a lot of them on the air," admitted Penn, explaining that working class men were upset about the economy and the health care mandate.
Penn added that Obama should, "go to the water cooler, in the offices of America," where he could appeal to the "kind of men who are going to have a reasonable conversation."
Matthews was still puzzled.
"What is it about Obama that turns off, we'll say it, white working class guys who didn't go to college?" he asked Cooper. "What is it that turns those guys off to Obama? is it race? Is it ethnicity? Is it background?"
Cooper said that race was not a "far-fetched" reason for Obama's lack of popularity with white men, but added that it might be because the president appears "a little academic or a little aloof."
Matthews speculated that it might be because the president was holding too many "glitzy fundraisers."
"Maybe doing too many gay events, he surmised. "I don't know if that offends the white working guy."
After the segment with Penn and Cooper, Matthews offered his conclusion.
"Men, males, guys, whatever, what's you guy's problem with President Obama?" he asked, facing the camera. "I think it would be interesting to know the answer."
Matthews added that Obama was "surprisingly tough out there" on foreign policy, especially after killing Osama bin Laden, but concluded that men were particularly attuned to the "humiliation" of being out of a job in a bad economy.