Going into 2012, the biggest shift in the electorate may be its feelings about who is best suited to handle the challenges of the economy. Back in 2008, the Democratic Party was not only the choice on the poll question “which party would do a better job” with the economy, it was the choice by a wide margin. Urban, suburban and rural, young and old, rich and poor, geographic and demographic groups of all stripes chose the Democrats.
The picture is very different on the eve of the 2012 primary season, according to the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll. Republicans best Democrats on that same question with some very important voting blocs, including the elderly, the wealthy, middle income voters, white working class voters and suburbanites.
The Democratic Party’s fall since 2008 has been sharp: a 15 percentage point drop among 18- to 34-year-olds and those 65 and older, a 12-point drop among those who make more than $75,000 a year, an 11-point slide with white working class voters and a 14- point slip with suburbanites. That decline on the question of the economy with suburbanites, who tend to be more moderate swing voters, could be critical.
Even with the groups who still think the Democrats would be better at handling the economy — voters who make less than $30,000 a year and urban voters — the loss of support on the economy has been big: down 21 and 16 points respectively.
Meanwhile, the GOP has made gains in all those categories. Its sharpest increase on the economy question — a 10 percentage point gain in support — came from those over 65 years old. But there were notable increases elsewhere, particularly with suburbanites where Republican economic support was up some 6 percentage points and with those making more than $75,000 a year where the GOP’s support grew by 7 percentage points.
Still, look at those numbers and you will notice a big difference between them.
READ THE REST OF THIS WEEK'S POLITICS COUNTS COLUMN  IN THE WALL STREET JOURNAL.