Labor Boss Sees Racism in Romney Welfare Attacks

Romney's race baiting will be ineffective, James Hoffa said, because white, working class voters are used to having a black president.

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Teamsters union president James Hoffa speaks during a rally against the cross-border trucking program Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2011, in San Diego. The first Mexican carrier is set to roll into the U.S. interior within days under a new agreement, but American trucking union leaders and two California congressmen haven't given up on stopping the cross-border trucking program that had been stalled for years by safety concerns and political wrangling.

CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Teamsters President James Hoffa is the latest prominent ally of President Barack Obama to denounce the Romney-Ryan welfare attacks on the president as "race baiting," adding that the ploy won't work because blue collar workers have become accustomed to having a black president and because the Republican Party has gone so far to the right.

While the Obama campaign itself has steered clear of citing race as a factor in the Romney-Ryan welfare attacks—where the GOP ticket has baselessly claimed that the Obama administration has rolled back work requirements from the mid-1990s welfare overhaul—a growing number of allies and outside commentators are calling the attacks out for what they are. Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, for example, said last week that the line of attack against Obama is a "dog whistle for voters who consider race when casting their ballot."

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Hoffa describes the attack as "a thinly veiled attempt at some type of race baiting," forcefully adding that "it's not going to work" because "people just don't believe anything [Republicans] say." He argued blue collar workers are at this point less concerned about the president's race than GOP assaults on union rights--he noted that this year for the first time the GOP adopted a platform plank calling for a national "right to work" law--and Medicare, for example.

And while Hoffa concedes that President Obama's race has played a role working class white voters' dim view of the president, he said that changing circumstances could mitigate some of those president's problems. Obama's relations with white, working class voters is "a very touchy subject," Hoffa says, and "hard to talk about."

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He adds:

People are used to seeing him now; he was something new in '08 and the idea of an African-American president was completely new. He's been on the job for four years and he's done a good job. He's competent, he's smart, he's energetic, he travels, he represents the country very well and I think that that certainly will cut through a lot of—now does that mean everybody? Noooooo, no it doesn't mean everybody, but it means a lot of people I think, a lot of blue collar white Americans [will support Obama].

Nonetheless, Hoffa refuses to put a firm number on how much of the white blue collar vote Obama will get. Asked if Obama will crack 40 percent of the blue collar vote, he says: "I wouldn't make any predictions. Hopefully."

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