Major Republican group sees weak economy key to attracting independent voters
April 26th, 2012
01:25 PM ET
2 years ago

Major Republican group sees weak economy key to attracting independent voters

Washington (CNN) – Some of the leading Republican pollsters said they believe their party has a growing chance to grab a large number of independent voters because of their negative view of the economy, especially as experts question whether the economic recovery is beginning to slow.

With the nation politically divided, political analysts said the election's outcome could come down to which party better persuades this key bloc of voters who supported President Barack Obama in 2008 but were a major reason Republicans won back the House of Representatives two years later.

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The pollsters, working for the Republican polling and research group Resurgent Republic, conducted 24 focus groups of people who voted for Obama four years ago but are undecided so far this election cycle. Specifically they took the pulse of key demographic groups: Hispanics, blue collar Catholics, young voters and suburban women.

They said they found dire views of the economy prevalent throughout the sessions.

In a briefing to reporters Wednesday, Resurgent said in the sessions, voters generally found the president personally likeable and wanted him to succeed, but there was a large sense of "economic discouragement" among the group. The independents expressed strong concerns about the nation's unemployment rate as well as signs of underemployment. Resurgent said these concerns led them to have hope Mitt Romney could grab independents come November.

Take for example the blue collar Catholics. Neither Obama nor Romney has done particularly well with them in the past. They made up 27% of the 2008 electorate, and Obama won the demographic 54% to 45% the same year.

Pollster John McLaughlin conducted focus groups of blue collar Catholics in Cleveland and Pittsburgh. He said he found they believed they were carrying a large burden for the country while others are playing by different rules. The participants described the economic situation with such words as 'pessimistic' and 'dour,' according to McLaughlin.

"Whoever appeals to this target demographic will do so by connecting with their personal sense of suffering and the issues they care about, primarily their desire for quality, family-supporting jobs," McLaughlin and Haley Barbour wrote in a memo outlining their findings. Barbour, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee and a key adviser to Resurgent Republic, most recently served as governor of Mississippi.

The memo's takeaway: it will come down to which candidate better persuades these workers he would be the better economic steward going forward.

"If you look at this data of people who voted for Obama, who are undecided, who are representative of swing voters in the United States, the more facts they know the less likely they are to be for Obama," Barbour told reporters. "They already feel the economy is much worse than being reported. Unemployment is worst. Underemployment is under reported. And the more facts they get confirm their negative view of the economy and the direction the country has been going on. Obviously Republicans will want to make that the center piece of the campaign."

In his campaign appearances the president points out how his administration has helped the economy recover since he took office.

"Three years ago we can look back and say that we've made progress; that we're moving on the right track. Over the last two years, we've created over 4 million jobs, 600,000 in the last quarter one," the president said at a fundraiser earlier this month in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. "Now, things are still tough out there and we've still got a long ways to go, but there's no doubt that the economy is getting stronger, businesses are hiring again, the stock market is back. And the question then becomes, how do we build on what we've been able to do over the last several years to deal with some underlying problems that actually preceded the recession?"

Recent polls have shown the nation's independent voters seem to be persuadable. A Gallup survey of independents taken between April 21 and April 23 shows Obama with a 45% to 43% advantage over Romney, while the former Massachusetts governor was up six points earlier in April.

The New York Times/CBS poll found Romney with a one-point lead among independents last week, while in March Obama had a six-point advantage. A poll by CNN/ORC taken between April 13 and April 15 found Obama with a five-point lead among independents – down from a 15-point advantage in March.

Pollster Ed Goeas said he believes the next 30 days and what the economic reports show in that time could be critical in helping to determine the election's outcome. If the signs turn more negative then "we will then be … in an economic election," he told reporters.

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Filed under: 2012 • Haley Barbour • Mitt Romney
soundoff (57 Responses)
  1. Jules

    What President Obama inherited was a really weak economy and he has imprvoed it despite what the GOP would like to have you believe. Check the job creation charts, check your 401k's and retirement funds, check the stock market. Who do I trust – I trust the president rather than the same ol same ol reduce taxes, get rid of regulations and then let's start some wars. Sound familiar? It should. Oh, and by the way, Rubio for VP – I think not. He looks like a high schooler standing next to Romney and the delivery of his recent foreign policy speech was indeed a high school perfomance and maybe a garde C one at that. The conent was pretty good tho, it was exactly President Obama's policy.

    April 26, 2012 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  2. Rudy NYC

    Real Truth and Nothing But the Real Truth wrote:

    Google "if you want America to fail" and get an education and something to think about.
    -----------------
    Amazing. How'd you do that? It came up with a hit list of your most outrageous quotes. On Google, no less.

    April 26, 2012 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  3. What's good for the goose...

    I'm no Palin supporter, but remember how much flak she got for saying Republicans should "set their crosshairs" on certain politicians? Now Vice President Biden is "taking direct aim" and "hitting" and "attacking" Governor Romney. I'm anxiously awaiting all the backlash for these comments, which I'm sure all of my fellow Americans find as outrageous as they did then...

    April 26, 2012 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  4. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Republicans lie in an attempt to buy them time to try and figure out how they can stop President Obama from helping the American people. Remember, Republicans said from the beginning they wanted President Obama to fail.

    April 26, 2012 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  5. jj

    Marie MD....do you really think the President sends jobs overseas? Corporations are free to do that, and they do because it is profitable to them. This has been going on for years...not just the last 3. Get real.

    April 26, 2012 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  6. ddt

    Obviously Republicans would rather see the economy fail in order for them to win the elections. What they are doing is to loot for a bad economy that is all the want. The gas prices have started going down a few months ago the were makng noise about gas. As we all know that these things keep changing. What if by Sept the unemployment goes down to 5%?

    April 26, 2012 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  7. Obama's Snake Oil on Sale - Git yur lies and deceit here!!

    Don't you all worry now... I'l be spreadin' the wealth around to my independent brothers if you catch my drift. Keep those contributions coming people. It ain't cheap buyin' re-election.

    April 26, 2012 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
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