Does it even matter who the Democrats nominate?

John Judis has a New Republic piece warning that Barack Obama will have a very tough time winning the "white working class vote" in November:

Obama comes from a modest background and has tried to appeal as a candidate of both Harvard Law School and Chicago’s Back-of-the-Yards, where he organized laid-off steel workers, but he hasn’t been able to pull it off. His manner, his tenor, and his diction are Harvard Law, and when he starts dropping his ‘g’s," he sounds strained. And Obama is too young, and lacks the stature, to appear as a Franklin Roosevelt-style father figure.

One response is that economic conditions trump all of these character issues anyway (see an argument from 2004). And saying that Obama (or Hillary Clinton) "lacks the stature" of Franklin Roosevelt is circular logic, since the indisputably elitist Roosevelt didn’t get his stature until he was elected president, undoubtedly due to economic conditions.

There’s also the question of whether the white working-class vote is static in its importance. John Kerry, mocked for being even further out of touch with salt-of-the-earth voters (windsurfing, ordering Swiss cheese on his Philly cheesesteak, etc.) came within 2.5 points of winning in 2004. And if the country is steadily becoming more educated and urban, won’t there come a time when a candidate who does well among well-educated and urban voters be at an advantage? (One problem this year for Democrats, however, is that John McCain is stronger than your typical Republican among these voters.)

Judis also warns that Obama isn’t in the same league as our last Democratic president:

Sometimes, voters will think a candidate cares about them because they think he is "one of them." Bill Clinton, of course, was a genius at this. He could be the candidate of Hope, Arkansas, and Yale Law School.

But praise for Bill Clinton’s political skills usually leave out this data point, from Real Clear Politics:

Exit polls actually show that in 1992 Bill Clinton won essentially the same portion of white men as Michael Dukakis in 1988. It was Ross Perot who siphoned off these men, as well as a lesser portion of white women, and undid George H.W. Bush.

Was Clinton a genius because he somehow maneuvered Perot into running for president?