Mitt Romney's success on Election Day depends in part on bolstering the edge he already has among independent voters. To do so, two recent rounds of Republican-led focus groups found, Romney needs to offer more details of his economic agenda and present a relatable image during Wednesday's first presidential debate.
"The challenge for Gov. Romney is to relate to them personally and provide some inspiration that their quality of life will improve," GOP pollster Linda DiVall told reporters on a conference call Monday.
While President Obama has maintained a
With that in mind, the conservative research group Resurgent Republic sponsored focus groups with key voting blocs who are still persuadable: College-educated suburban women and blue collar voters.
The most recent Quinnipiac University/CBS News/New York Times poll found thatin some key states -- a lead Romney must cut into if he wants to win. Resurgent Republic sponsored focus groups with college-educated women in Richmond, Virginia who voted for Mr. Obama in 2008 but currently don't support either candidate.
DiVall said that Mr. Obama's huge lead among women can be attributed in part to the Democrats' focus on women's issues like reproductive rights. When asked what they believed was at stake in this election, these voters named women's issues nearly as frequently as they named other issues like the economy.
However, DiVall said there's more to it. "The larger story is that .. Romney has not spelled out his economic plan," she said.
"There are plenty who say Obama campaigned on hope and change and has delivered on neither," DiVall continued. But because Romney has yet to make his economic agenda clear, those voters are "not willing to cross the line and embrace the alternative."
Blue collar men also feel they are unfamiliar with Romney's economic plans, according to two focus groups conducted in Cleveland, Ohio. The voters who participated did not have a college degree and most had household incomes of less than $100,000. They supported Mr. Obama in 2008 but are now unattached to a candidate.
Pollster Ed Goeas called this group "one of the most difficult subgroups of independents out there" to win over.
This group of voters, Goeas said, has a very negative outlook on the economy but does express optimism about the future. They're inclined to give Mr. Obama credit for trying to improve the economy but are hard-pressed to name any economic successes the president's achieved, other than the auto bailout.
Like suburban women, Goeas said these voters see the debate as "an opportunity to look at these candidates without a filter."
Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour told reporters on today's conference call that Romney should be able to win the hearts and minds of persuadable voters before Election Day.
"In the months of October and first week of November, Romney has time through the debates and other ways to make the sale," he said. "The burden is on him. It's his election to win, has been the whole time. He has to do it."
Barbour added, "I would be surprised if 100 percent of that is achieved in just the debates."