Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's strong debate performance may have helped him make inroads with a group of critical swing voters: Walmart moms.
In a Las Vegas-area focus group of 30 of these women—defined as female voters with children under the age of 18 who have shopped at the retail chain at least once in the last month—participants came away with a much stronger and often more positive impression of Romney. Their reactions suggest persuadable voters may be warming to the idea of a President Romney after a blitz of negative advertising by President Obama’s campaign had sown doubts about the former Massachusetts governor.
“He seemed more sincere--he just basically said I’m an American and I’d help America,” one woman said of Romney.
“I felt more comfortable with him,” another mom chimed in, mentioning in particular Romney’s assurances that he would work in a bipartisan manner. “I’m not seeing that from Obama. He’s giving everything over to Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid. I’ve only heard of one meeting he’s had with Congress.”
Many in the focus group also noted that Romney appeared to be more sure-footed and at ease on the debate stage. “He seemed confident,” a woman said. “He seemed more aggressive and very forthright.”
Others pointed out that they heard more details about Romney’s plans for his presidency than they had in the past. “Obama has put himself out there in a lot of his campaign ads as one-on-one—‘I’m just like you guys, I’m where you are,’ and he’s talked to the nation,” one woman said. “Romney hasn’t done that as much. This is the first time Romney gotten out there in the public and addressed a lot of the questions that people have about him.”
Another woman uttered the words that will strike fear in the hearts of Democratic operatives a month out from the election: “I was undecided and [now] I’m more leaning towards Romney.”
As for Obama, he seemed “defeated, a little bit,” one mother said. Another said that the president appeared to be “backpedaling,” asking for four more years when he already been given a term to do what he set out to accomplish.
“I think he is skirting the issues because he has not succeeded in the way that we thought he would,” one mom said.
Not a single Walmart mom in the focus group raised her hand when the group was asked if Obama “won” the debate. Nonetheless, many were still undecided and said they needed more information from both candidates and were eager to watch the next two debates.
“We need more jobs—that’s the bottom line,” one mom said.
The bipartisan polling team of Public Opinion Strategies (Republican) and Momentum Analysis (Democratic) has identified “Walmart moms” as a key swing voting bloc and one of the few persuadable demographic groups. It has been tracking their political leanings since 2010.
In November 2011, the two firms found that these moms made up 27 percent of all registered women voters, representing 14 percent of the electorate. According to their findings, in 2008, the Walmart moms voted for Obama, while in November 2010, they helped Republicans win the House.