For the niche demographic group known as the “Walmart moms,” GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan is still an unknown quantity.
So indicates the latest findings gleaned from two focus groups conducted by Democratic pollster Margie Omero of Momentum Analysis and Republican pollster Alex Bratty of Public Opinion Strategies in Columbus, Ohio, and Raleigh, N.C. The duo have been charting the mood of so-called swing "Walmart moms" — female voters with school-age children who have been to a Walmart at least once in the last month — throughout the cycle. The project is funded by the retailer.
Several of the moms knew about Mitt Romney’s announcement of Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who heads the House Budget Committee, as his pick, but said they needed to get to know him better before they could form a fuller opinion of him. The focus group participants' last names weren't revealed to the news media.
“You’re kind of like, there has to be something really fantastic about him or they pulled him on for some other reason, like maybe to bump up Romney’s likability,” said one Columbus mom named Jessica. “I don’t know how I feel about it yet just because he’s either really great or he’s here for other reasons.”
Some noted that he seemed to have ascended the ladder in Washington in a up-from-bootstraps fashion that resonated with them. Several mentioned that he also seemed more warm and likable than Romney, although two also referenced his position on Medicare — a potential pitfall for the Republican ticket.
“I thought when he picked a running mate that would clarify everything for me and it has not,” said Chandler, a Raleigh mom. “His plan for the future about using vouchers for Medicare, so they can buy insurance. You think ‘OK, well, that might not be bad,’ but I have a mother on Medicare and I don’t know how that’s going to impact her.”
Jennifer, also from Raleigh added, “I was shocked that they [the Republicans] went with another controversial vice presidential candidate … because more than once he said he would do away with Medicare.” (Ryan has adamantly denied wanting to end Medicare, saying he wants to preserve it for future generations.)
Several of the focus group members also expressed their disgust with the tenor of the campaign, noting that they were looking forward to the debates and a substantive discussion of the issues.
“I don’t even pay attention to the ads,” one mom from Raleigh said. “I hate ads. I get so upset with them.”
“I want to hear about the real information, what’s on the table, what’s going to go down and that doesn’t happen right now,” said Sheila from Columbus. “You can watch the debates and weed out what you don’t want to hear and figure out what you do want to hear.”