It's Wallet and Pocketbook Issues, Stupid

Media commentary on the presidential election often focuses on controversial issues like Libya or the latest absurd claim made by some candidate about rape, and of course these are issues of some significance.

But judging by conversations I've overheard in my local barbershop and grocery store, what really matters to ordinary folk are wallet and pocketbook issues. They are also issues that presidents have limited (if any) control over, but that doesn't stop voters from assigning blame to the current president while placing their hope in a new guy, even if the latter's life experiences are completely divorced from their working-class, day-to-day struggles.

My neighbors complain about the price of gasoline and that to fill the large-capacity tanks in their pickup trucks can cost upwards of $100.00. They complain about the rising costs of groceries, which of course is partly related to high gas prices. Simply put, they're worried about paying the bills. They're worried about empty wallets and pocketbooks. Left unsaid is that they're worried about slipping a notch. They're worried about being considered lower class instead of middle class. They're worried about being, in a word, poor.

President Obama favors connecting to people with lofty rhetoric and vague slogans like "forward." It's not good enough. In the closing days of this campaign, he needs to do a better job of connecting with "the folks," as he likes to say, and their very real worries about making ends meet.

Bill Clinton knew this. He knew how to talk about feeling people's pain, and he had a way of doing so that made people believe in him. Obama needs to do a better job about reassuring the American people that he too feels their pain. That he's determined to put more money back in their wallets and pocketbooks.That he's determined to lower gasoline and grocery prices. That he's determined to keep the American dream alive: the simple dream of being able to live one's life in economic security, on one's own terms, without the shame of being dependent on handouts.

Show some determination on these wallet and pocketbook issues, Mr. President, and you win. Vague and lofty rhetoric is not enough. Not when so many people are hurting.

Astore writes regularly for and can be reached at