Walmart Moms Give Obama the Edge in Debate

National Journal

President Obama scored a decisive win with the swing voters known as the Walmart moms participating in a focus group during Monday night’s presidential debate on foreign policy. Still, many were hesitant to give either candidate their final nod, even after the final debate concluded and with only two weeks left until Election Day.

Of the 20 Walmart moms — defined as women voters with children under age 18 who have shopped at the retail chain at least once in the last month — six came into the debate undecided, while seven were leaning toward Obama and seven were leaning toward Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

After the debate, four of the women remained undecided, two went decisively to Romney and three said they will support Obama. Five leaned toward Romney and six leaned toward Obama. During a discussion, eight said Obama had won the debate, while one gave Romney the edge.

Two years ago, a bipartisan polling team from the Republican firm Public Opinion Strategies and the Democratic firm Momentum Analysis identified Walmart moms as an important voting bloc and one of the few persuadable demographic groups. They have been measuring their political leanings since 2010.

In November 2011, the two firms found that Walmart moms make up 27 percent of all registered women voters, representing 14 percent of the electorate. According to their findings, the Walmart moms helped Obama seal victory in 2008, and two years later, helped fuel the Republican-wave that led to the GOP taking control of the House of Representatives.

In Monday’s focus group, conducted in Winter Park, Fla., many of the mothers said they were impressed by Obama’s command of the issues.  “He tended to give more concrete examples of past actions and how it relates to the future, how it kind of ties in to the plans he has,” one woman said. “With Romney, I’m not sure what his plan is. I want to understand it.”

Another woman said she was “unsettled” at the end of the debate about what a Romney presidency would look like, while another called him “hypocritical,” a sign perhaps that Obama’s sharp attacks on his opponent’s positions had their intended effect.

“He can’t back anything up. He’s too all over the place,” the woman said. “Obama is very straightforward.”

Yet another complained that Romney’s answers seemed canned and said, “The only thing I keep thinking about with Romney is a beauty pageant. This isn’t a beauty pageant. I need something real.”

Several women also gave Obama high marks for demonstrating his experience on the national security front. “He just showed me that he has a lot of experience in terms of foreign affairs than Mitt Romney,” one woman said.

Still, some of them weren’t letting the incumbent off easily. A few noted that their quality of life overall had not improved in the last four years, and talked about their own economic struggles. The Walmart moms tended to respond favorably when both candidates tied foreign policy to issues closer to home, and they registered disapproval when the candidates resorted to talking over one another.

“Why is [Obama] still blaming other people after four years?” one woman said. “I think he should be fired.”

“They can’t relate to us at all,” another woman lamented when asked if the candidates were able to effectively reach them.

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