WASHINGTON (CNN) – The giveaway was when they started calling him "Barack."
It was jarring, at first, to hear many in this group of 12 independent voters refer to their new president by his first name. But the more they talked, the more it made sense. After all, they are seeing a lot of him.
And they like it - or at least they like him. "There's a sense of intimacy, or relationship, that was there," says Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who conducted the focus group in Towson, Maryland, on Wednesday night. "[It shows] how unbelievably powerful his personal presence is. ... Don't get fooled by numbers alone. Something is stronger here."
So while the president's poll numbers start to dip, these dozen independents - including four McCain supporters and a lone Nader voter - are giving the president some leeway. They feel like they know him, and that he's "honest,' as one put it. And while they say the country is "broke," "worried" and "confused, they're not blaming Barack. If anything, they seem invested in his success.