Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney gestures during a campaign event at American Legion Post 176, Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012, in Springfield, Va. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

With a seemingly endless stream of campaign commercials and speeches focused on the middle class, which presidential candidate is actually winning this crucial group?

The answer may come as a surprise.

A POLITICO-George Washington University poll conducted last week and released Monday shows Mitt Romney with a sizable 14-point lead (55 percent to 41 percent). This demographic, always a huge target in presidential campaigns, represents 54 percent of the American electorate. Romney not only led overall among this group, but also on issues such as the economy, foreign policy, spending, taxes, Medicare and jobs.

It is oft repeated that this election, like most, will come down to voters’ pocketbooks. Four recent economic reports illustrate the challenge President Barack Obama faces in persuading voters to give him four more years.

Median income report

Recent U.S. Census data reported by the Financial Times shows that median household income has fallen 4.8 percent over the past three years. It is now at 1993 levels.

National Association of Manufacturers survey

On the jobs front, two-thirds of small business owners and manufacturers say there is too much uncertainty in the market today to expand, grow or hire new workers. Sixty-nine percent say the Obama administration’s policies have hurt American small businesses and manufacturers.

Global Competitiveness Report

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Earlier this month, the World Economic Forum released its annual Global Competitiveness Report. The U.S. ranked seventh out of 144 economies. Five years ago, it ranked first. It scored near the very bottom on “government budget balance, percent GDP” and “general government debt, percent GDP.”

Moody’s U.S. government debt rating update

Moody’s recently threatened to downgrade the U.S. government’s debt rating unless the 2013 congressional negotiations “lead to specific policies that produce a stabilization and then downward trend in the ratio of federal debt to GDP over the medium term.”

With 40 days to go until the election and the race still tight, additional new economic data could play a role in swaying voters one way or the other.

David Ward is a writer living in Salt Lake City. Contact him at davidbward@gmail.com