Politics -- August 16, 2012 at 8:16 AM EDT
Wisconsin Women: A Challenge for Both Romney and President Obama
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President Obama is going to have a harder time winning over female voters this election season, if you consider the sentiment of 12 Wisconsin-area voters who opened up about the campaign. Even so, women are not yet in enamored with Mitt Romney.
The dozen women were pulled together for a focus group in the Brookfield suburb of Milwaukee Tuesday night. Ten of them voted for Mr. Obama in 2008 but just four are sure about him this time or leaning his way. The other eight said they were either undecided or leaning toward the president's GOP rival.
"I was really excited about Obama," said Diane Curley, 66. "I don't feel that positive about him anymore."
"Obama's platform was change. I don't see any positive change, I just see our national debt go up," said Michelle Nicole Wienke, 31.
The NewsHour was among the news outlets allowed to view the session as it happened via a livestream. The discussion was held in a research facility and was moderated by Democratic pollster Peter Hart.
The women said that Mr. Obama needs to show leadership and strength, Some expressed ambivalence about whether he can grow as a leader, if given a second term as Commander-in-Chief.
Polls and pundits say women will determine the 2012 presidential election. Both the Obama and Romney campaigns have been targeting female voters through stump speeches and campaign ads. This summer the Obama campaign kicked off its "Women Vote 2012 Summits" in several states, some of them featuring Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, actress Eva Longoria and recording artist Alicia Keys. The summits have focused on women's issues and aim to show the difference between the presidential candidates.
But some in this focus group say the president doesn't have enough time to change their minds.
The two-and-a-half-hour discussion was designed to gauge the attitudes of white, educated suburban women, according to the organizers. The women ranged in age from 24 to 66, with job titles including stay-at-home mom, retail clerk, social worker, administrative assistant, teacher and electrical wirer.
The women expressed concern with Mr. Obama's leadership on the U.S. economy and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and compared the president's performance with that of their own Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
"I don't like the way [Scott Walker] did it, but he got it done," Curley said, referring to the governor's success at curbing collective bargaining rights for Wisconsin's government workers to balance the state's budget, and his subsequent survival of a recall election.
Even so, Romney has a lot to do to win over these women.
The women described Romney as "standoffish," "elitist" and "entitled," and said that they wish he was more down-to-earth. Eleven of the 12 said that they would rather spend a daily 90-minute commute to work with Mr. Obama rather than Romney.
The women also were not familiar with Mitt Romney's wife, Ann. "She could be right here and I wouldn't even know," Wienke said.
If they had the chance to speak with Romney, the women said that they would ask him to provide them with a detailed plan on how he will repair the economy and boost job growth.
"Tell us what you are hiding in your taxes," said Jody Wamser, 55. Romney has said that he will release only the last two years of his federal tax returns.
The women expressed appreciation for Romney's pick of Rep. Paul Ryan as his vice presidential running mate, describing the congressman as friendly and more like an "everyday guy." They also saw him as a having a set plan, even though they said they are not convinced Ryan's ideas are right for America.
"I see it as resurrecting trickle-down economics," said Donna Weingarten, 58.
"I think the Ryan plan is kind of scary," Wienke said.
The discussion was the fifth of eight focus groups conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. It aims to measure public attitudes toward the 2012 presidential election, the candidates and the issues.
Similar focus groups took place in October in Cincinnati, in Fairfax, Va. in December, in April in Tampa and earlier this summer in Denver.
You can hear voters weigh in on the issues they find most important this year. Check out the videos we've collected via the NewsHour's Listen to Me project here.