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June 15, 2012

Peter Hart (D) Focus Group: Independents Who Voted For Obama Are Now Turning Away

Tipping point. Even Eleanor Clift, who could never find Democratic spin absurd enough for her to discard, hits the panic button.

Nine of the 12 people gathered in Denver on Tuesday voted for Obama in ’08, but only three lean toward him at this point. They are a cross-section of America, working in real estate, health care, IT, and sales, and they’re torn between a president whose performance they say has been underwhelming and who doesn’t deserve reelection, and a challenger they know very little about beyond the fact that he’s a rich and successful businessman.

Read the whole thing to get a sense of this group. And to remind you: They're not conservatives; if they were, they wouldn't be independents. For example, they credit Obama with "reining in the credit card companies."

The sort of thing O'Reilly likes, "lookin' out for the folks." That's part of why O'Reilly is popular, because he believes in things that people who don't really know all that much believe, too.

This seems to confirm Larry Sabato's analysis that most independents are down on Obama, but Romney hasn't closed the deal with them yet. On the plus side, they seem to know almost nothing of Romney, apart from the fact that he's rich, and also that he was successful in business, and also he made a lot of money. (Yes, I know, that's all the same thing; that seems to be all they know.)

Which makes this a critical period for Romney. Such people know precious little about him, and seem receptive to him (in as much as they have doubts about Obama), but they're not there yet.

That said, let's get to the Obama-knocking bits.

Whether it’s a failure of policy or of communications is debatable, but the sense of disillusionment with Obama’s performance is real. “He set up expectations that began 46 months ago, and they only grew over time,” says Hart. He singled out Jeffrey, a 31-year-old Web designer and home remodeler, as the voter Obama most needs and might not get. Jeffrey voted for Obama last time.

“The whole platform was hope—I don’t feel any more hope today,” he said. Pressed by Hart as to which candidate he was leaning toward, Jeffrey said the tenor of the campaign turned him off, that he felt like he was in the middle of a weird argument between a husband and wife, and all he wanted to do was leave the room. “I don’t even know if I’m going to vote this time,” he said glumly.


Asked how each [candidate] would perform if they were lost in the forest with nine friends, the group concluded Romney would use his super-duper expensive phone to call for help, with Donald Trump and wife Ann Romney topping the call list, while Obama would give a pep talk and then retreat to the sidelines. There’s the campaign in a microcosm.

For Obama, this was a devastating departure from how voters responded to a similar question four years ago, when they said then candidate Obama would work with you, reason with you, and bring out the best in you. This time, says Hart, there was “no sense of leadership.” These are hard-nosed assessments five months out from the election, and the Obama campaign ignores them at its peril.

One of the most frustrating thing about the politically unaware is their unchanging belief that Something must be done! (all attempts to panic the public into agreeing that Something Must Be Done! are directed at this cohort), but they have little idea of what, specifically, should be done. Something. You know, something. Something must be done, why are you not getting this?

One thing many conservatives never acknowledge is that, ultimately, a successful candidate must agree with this cohort that Something Must Be Done. They cannot be argued out of this position; they've held it all their lives. It's not merely a belief, it's an article of faith.

It's the single thing they know about politics -- Something must be done.

Ultimately the battle is convincing these "folks" (as O'Reilly calls them) that what you're proposing counts as "something."

I never understand calls that the "government shouldn't be involved in this" or the "government should do nothing." Oh, I understand the ideology under it; but the people saying these things don't seem to realize that the swing voters have spoken, and, you know, it's the same thing they've been saying for 50 years: Something must be done.

If you believe in laissez-faire economics, you shouldn't say the government should not be involved in the private sector, as a matter of politics. You should say, as Romney does, that the government should "unleash the private sector."

See, that's something. He's saying he's going to do Something. Something must be done, and that something is "unleashing the private sector."

Just something to keep in mind. The difference we're quibbling about, in some of these ideological disputes, is whether we're going to employ an active verb or a passive verb in describing policy.

Newt Knew This! Newt was a master of this. He was always proposing to do something, and not just do something, mind you, but do something fundamentally transformative.

Because, Something Must Be Done.

They Know Who They're Voting For: Frank Luntz always makes this point: This sort of person likes saying they haven't made up their minds yet. They think it's a good thing to delay decision-making; only partisans make snap decisions, after all.

That's a bit of ego in this cohort -- they're not partisans. They do not make decisions based only only on partisanship or ideology. They make decisions based upon "facts" (but the fact is, they know fewer facts than partisans on either side of the aisle).

Now, Luntz gets frustrated, because in his focus-groups, these sorts of people swear up and down on the Bible that they haven't made any decisions, but when you keep asking them, it becomes clear they have made decisions on almost all the factors which will produce their ultimate decision.

Like, in 2008, they might say "Obama would be better for the economy, he has better leadership skills, he's smarter than McCain, he understands ordinary people's problems better than McCain."

And then you ask, "So you're voting for Obama, then?" And they say, "Oh no, I haven't decided yet. I'm waiting for all the facts."

What facts? You think Obama is superior in every important way. What exactly are you waiting for, to admit your preference?

In other words, they have decided -- they just think it makes them seem like smarter, more informed voters to claim they're still deciding, so they won't admit that. As they're actually not very well informed voters -- and I think they know this -- this pretense becomes very important to them. They need some pretense to excuse away their complete disinterest in reading the news.

So they basically start insisting they want the candidates themselves to catch them up to speed, ignoring the fact that policies are spelled out on their campaign websites, and ignoring the fact that these positions are easily and readily discoverable, just by googling and reading.

But they don't want to do any of that, so they just keep saying they'll make their decision when a candidate "gives them the facts," which he already did (well, facts and claims and arguments and themes and spin, at least).

All of this is readily discoverable, but they just keep claiming they need someone to explain the facts to them, before they can decide.

Luntz has this problem with focus groups of independents every time, and notes it every time.

So I would be even more optimistic about this finding than their actual replies indicate.

That said, they still insist that Something Must Be Done and you contradict them at your very great peril.

Suggestion for Romney: Do a series of three one-hour videos explaining basic economics, and your plan. Release it with much fanfare. Make sure it's pretty difficult to contradict.

Here's my thinking: This cohort you're trying to convince will not watch it. They don't follow the news, and they sure as hell aren't going to watch a three hour video on basic economic policy.

But they will hear you did this, and this might help satisfy their insistence that you "explain the facts to them."

They don't really want the facts explained to them, of course. That's already been done a million times. They just want you to take time out to personally explain the facts to them.

So do so.

Again, they ain't watchin' it, but they'll at least be aware that one candidate has done what they demand he do.

Get the people who did Ryan's videos involved. They seem to know what the hell they're doing.

digg this
posted by Ace at 04:37 PM

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