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Undecided Voters Weigh in on Romney’s Convention Speech

August 31, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
In 2008, Virginia went from an historically "red" state to "blue" when a majority of voters voted for President Obama. In 2012, the race in this state is too close to call. Ray Suarez talks to six undecided Virginians for reaction to Mitt Romney's speech at the 2012 RNC and asks what will be the tipping point for their vote.
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TRANSCRIPT

JEFFREY BROWN: The economy may well be the deciding factor for voters who still haven’t made up their minds. Polls show just a sliver of the electorate is truly undecided this year, only 3 percent to 5 percent.

But a new ABC News/Washington Post poll today indicates that one in four registered voters may be — quote — “persuadable.”

Ray Suarez sat down with some self-described undecideds in the swing state of Virginia, as they listened in on the final night of the Republican Convention.

RAY SUAREZ: Virginia switched from being an historically red state to the blue column when it voted for President Obama last time. Now the battleground state is too close to call.

We gathered six Northern Virginia voters to watch Gov. Romney’s acceptance speech carefully, and with 67 days until Election Day, they’re still undecided.

Martha Paschal, 51, a life-long Democrat who voted for the president in 2008, but says she’s reluctant to do it again.

Adam Salazar, a 26-year-old grad student, who considers himself a Republican, but voted for President Obama last election.

Annabel Foery, who voted Republican in the last two presidential elections, but isn’t sure she trusts Gov. Romney and wants to see more cooperation on both sides to get things done.

Beth Hersom, 30, a registered Democrat who considers herself a swing voter. She voted for Obama, but declares herself disappointed, particularly on the issue of abortion.

Ben Harris, a 21-year-old college student who is casting his first vote and supported John McCain the last time around.

And Tom Wilson, an independent and Obama voter in ’08 who is very concerned about the future of the economy for his family.

Was tonight’s speech useful to you? Did it add something to everything you’re taking on board to help you make up your mind?

ANNABEL FOERY, undecided Virginia voter: I didn’t find enough meat on it, but I appreciated some of his statements, particularly the statements about his — about his position towards family values, towards the most important value in America, his faith.

That appealed to me. But I’m looking at it, the situation, from what’s good for the whole of America, and I didn’t find enough in that speech to make me sure that he would be the man.

THOMAS WILSON, undecided Virginia voter: He talked about developing skills and choice in schools, but he didn’t connect, like, how do you get there? How are we going to improve that issue? What would you do as president to help with that issue?

And I think on every point, he did that. There just was really nothing behind his ideas, other than, you know, look, we can do better than we have done, and I’m the guy to maybe do better.

ADAM SALAZAR, undecided Virginia voter: I was also paying particular attention to his personality. And that’s something that I have trying to gauge over the last few months or so. And, in particular, does he have the personality to kind of lead a divided Congress? He has certain ideas, but does he have the personality and the charisma to actually get those accomplished?

MARTHA PASCHAL, undecided Virginia voter: You cannot not raise taxes on the middle class, keep the defense going, reduce — eliminate the budget deficit and keep the social programs that Romney had mentioned. It’s just not financially feasible, in my opinion.

BETH HERSOM, undecided Virginia voter: When he talks about, you know, repeal Obamacare, and replace it with something, and he just — he brushed on it, well, what do you mean? What are you going to replace it with? And what are you going to do? Because that’s huge.

Paul Ryan said that Obama enacted this thing. Nobody asked for it. Nobody wanted it. Well, Obama ran on health care. He said, this is what I want to do. This is what I’m offering to you. And we elected him.

RAY SUAREZ: What are the major issues for you as you make up your minds in the next couple of weeks?

Ben?

BEN HARRIS, undecided Virginia voter: I think, really, for me, I was a little disappointed that he sort of — education, he mentioned it for about a sentence.

I would have liked to have seen that a little bit more. This might entirely be because my mother is a teacher and I’m a college student, but, I mean, really feel that education is probably one of the most important things that our government can do for us.

THOMAS WILSON: What he needed to do — what he could have done that would have been, I think, very helpful for me is to tell me how your business experience translates into being the chief executive of our country and developing jobs for our economy.

And maybe you can’t do it in a 30-minute speech. Maybe that’s the problem. But I think that he — listening to some of the other speeches that were given even his vice president I thought were just much stronger in terms of at least giving us sort of the broad themes of how it would be accomplished.

ANNABEL FOERY: For me, I like what he said about let’s not knock success. We’re not about knocking success in this country. We want to encourage it and applaud the people who have made it.

And I think that his — the fact that he has had the experience working with money — and a lot of money — is a good thing, because, let’s face it, our government takes a lot of money to run.

BEN HARRIS: I would like to see, honestly, a little more honesty.

He said, at one point, oh, I would love to have seen Obama succeed. I mean, yes, but then you picked Paul Ryan as your vice president, who basically spent the last four years fighting vigorously against everything Obama did to the point where significant portions of things haven’t been passed, like his promises, which were, you know, I agree with Mitt Romney, very farfetched, and, honestly, a lot of them were unrealistic.

But, I mean, there hasn’t been a budget in years, largely due to Republicans refusing to give in to any of the Democrats’ sort of desires on a budget.

RAY SUAREZ: Anything else that we need to hear between now and Election Day that will get you closer, for one guy or the other, that you really need and you’re still waiting on?

ADAM SALAZAR: I think a couple of other people kind of mentioned this, but I think that, you know, there are a lot of tough choices that a president has to make right now, and you can’t do everything at once.

And I would like to see him kind of take a little — for being somebody who took a lot of risks in business and it succeeded, I would like to see him take a little bit more risk in telling me, specifically, what I’m going to prioritize and what I’m willing to drop, and that’s a tough choice, but I’m willing to put all my energy behind it, and convince me that that is the right vision for creating jobs or helping the American public.

RAY SUAREZ: Did the speech alleviate anybody’s concerns or answer any outstanding questions about Mitt Romney?

MARTHA PASCHAL: I thought it did a very good job of personalizing him. I thought he came across as a little more human.

He — you know, the poor guy, he’s….

MAN: He’s really not a robot.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTHA PASCHAL: Yes. He’s just not comfortable interacting with everybody. And politics is the art of the personal connection. That’s tough for him. And I thought the speech went a long way.

ANNABEL FOERY: It was — listening to Marco Rubio beforehand, who I have never really heard in a long speech either, and I found him much more charismatic, much more attractive, personality-wise, than I did Mr. Romney.

RAY SUAREZ: Uh-oh. I don’t think that was the intention.

(LAUGHTER)

ANNABEL FOERY: But I did. But I did. But I want — I want to find this Mr. Romney — I want Mitt Romney to have this personality that the people will look to and put confidence in. And I’m hoping for that.

RAY SUAREZ: So he’s still got a shot with you?

ANNABEL FOERY: Well, yes, yes, he’s got a shot, but — definitely.

RAY SUAREZ: I mean, the dissatisfaction I’m hearing isn’t necessarily disqualifying. You just want more.

ANNABEL FOERY: We have to make a choice between one or the other, so…

THOMAS WILSON: I would put personality low on my list, because personality is not going to pay my bills. It’s not going to pay my mortgage.

(LAUGHTER)

THOMAS WILSON: And whenever I call my banks and I tell them I have got a great personality, they say, OK, that’s wonderful.

BETH HERSOM: I think I like him a little better as a person after that speech, you know, talking about his family and he choked up a little talking about his mom.

And, you know, that was good to see. I like him a little better as a man, but it doesn’t change my opinion of him as a candidate. And — and I don’t — I mean — and I don’t think that it should.

RAY SUAREZ: At the end of the night, all six were as undecided as they came in. They will get together next week to compare notes on President Obama’s acceptance speech. We will have that for you next Friday.