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White Men, A Key GOP Demographic, Discuss The Romney Appeal

For all the attention paid to women in this race, there's another gender gap — with white men.

The Republican ticket of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan campaigned in northeastern Florida on Friday, where thousands of men had descended on Daytona Beach for the annual motorcycle festival Biketoberfest.

A bunch of them were at Willie's Tropical Tattoo smoking cigarettes, drinking beer and listening to music.

Gary Biser goes by the name "Moose." Stickers on his bike helmet say, "Life's too short to ride with ugly women," "No bar too far," and other things that can't be printed. He says he is resigned to voting for Mitt Romney.

"I don't have anybody else to choose for, but he's gonna be my man," Biser says.

Biser works in the coal mines of rural Maryland. He says these past four years have been a disaster.

"Well, they've dropped our wages down, they've dropped our medical, everything else. Price of gas and everything's up. Shouldn't be that way," Biser says.

In this crowd, which is largely white men, there's a lot of enthusiasm for Republican ideas. People are less excited about the Republican nominee.

"I wish the Republican Party would quit finding multibillionaires to run just so they could get their message across," says Jerry Willard, who recently retired here in Florida.

Whatever his feelings about Romney, Willard says he hates that Democrats are trying to cut more deeply into wealthy people's incomes.

"Have you ever been hired by somebody that was broke? Have you ever been hired by somebody that was poor? Have you ever been hired by someone that was on welfare or food stamps?" he asks. "I don't think I ever have. I don't think I'm ever gonna get there. So the question is: Who the heck hires us? People with money."

There's no question who's going to win the votes in this crowd. In the last election, Barack Obama carried only 41 percent of white men, according to exit polls. And that was a high water mark for Democrats. John Kerry got 37 percent of the white male vote; Al Gore took only 36 percent.

So the important question is how big a margin among white men Romney will get this year. There's a lot of pressure to do better than Republicans have done before, since minority groups are booming.

"We do spend a lot of time in Florida talking about the growing Hispanic population and the growing black population of voters, but as a practical matter, there still are more white voters in Florida than there are other groups," says Aubrey Jewett, a political scientist at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

Neither presidential candidate is a natural fit with this crowd, but they try. Obama welcomed NASCAR drivers to the White House back in April.

"These are some outstanding men. And it's true about the whole NASCAR organization," Obama said.

Romney made two rained-out attempts to see a race. Eventually he campaigned at the NASCAR Technical Institute in North Carolina.

"I only dreamed of cars like that. To have my name on a car like that is just too much," Romney said.

Perhaps it's no coincidence then that both men at the bottom of the ticket, Joe Biden and Paul Ryan, specialize in relating to working-class guys.

Even at Biketoberfest, this group is not a monolith. In the sea of sleeveless black T-shirts, tattoos and bandanas, one Obama supporter popped his head up.

"I like when they went after him for his birth certificate while he was going after bin Laden," says Ormond Beach, Fla., resident Bobby Sayward. "It's like this guy went right behind everybody's back and he got the job done. Why people don't vote for him is going to be an amazing thing to me."

In this sea of white men, the Obama voter is a true minority.

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Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.
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