Can Romney Convince Walmart Moms He's Up to the Job?

Mary Altaffer/AP Photo

A group of 20 women voters from Richmond, Va., and Las Vegas offered some interesting insights into the dilemma facing many swing voters this election.

Many of these women are struggling economically. They spoke of losing houses and jobs. One woman even said that she and her husband want more kids "but we can't afford to have more."

These 20 women - all were moms who shop at Walmart at least once a month - were part of two focus groups conducted by Democratic pollster Margie Omero and Republican pollster Alex Bratty, and sponsored by Walmart.

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They expressed disappointment with the job Obama has done so far on the economy. When asked about what accomplishments he'd achieved in his three years in office, many of the women responded with blank stares and silence. In Richmond, the question hung in the air for a while until finally one woman piped up, "His wife is encouraging us to eat healthy."

Yet, they also believe that three years is a short amount of time to fix the big, fat mess that Obama inherited.

Karla, a 35-year old mom of three from Las Vegas, who said she voted for a candidate other than Obama or McCain in 2008, said "Obama has only had three years. You cannot grow a flower in a week."

But while they were willing to cut Obama some slack on the job he's done so far, they really don't know what he'll do in the next four years to make the country any better. When asked what advice they'd give President Obama, Stephanie, a homemaker from Richmond (and a McCain voter in 2008), said, "Tell me how the next four years are going to be different." Kristy, a self-described Republican who voted for Obama in 2008, said she wanted Obama to "lay out the details."

As for Mitt Romney, he remains a blank slate. Most of these women knew little to nothing about him. But it is clear that ads attacking Romney for his record at Bain Capital have penetrated.

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Stephanie and Rebecca voted for McCain in 2008, but both expressed worry over Romney's business record. When asked by the moderator what they'd heard or seen about the campaign so far, Rebecca replied, "That whole thing where factories have shut down, that concerns me. … That's scary because I work for a small business."

"Little guys like us are like a gerbil on the wheel, OK?" she said. "Where's my break? We don't get anything other than another day of work"

Stephanie, who said Obama "hasn't produced a lot," was also dubious as to whether Romney would do a better job on the economy. "Romney cut jobs," she said.

In Las Vegas, Karla A., a mom of three who voted for McCain, opined that in this economy, "You want someone who knows about business." Leanne, a divorced mom and fitness instructor shot back, "But do you want someone who's a shady businessman?"

Moreover, many of these women were worried about replacing Obama with a new guy at such a delicate time. Stephanie from Richmond worried about a steep learning curve for Romney. "He won't be able to do anything immediately," she said.

"It scares me to bring a new person in, " said Rebecca from Richmond.

The good news for Romney? As a still very undefined candidate, he has the time to make his case to these voters.

But he's got to do more than just paint broad brush strokes. These women want some specifics.

When asked what advice they had for the two candidates, Sheila, a middle-age mom of a 9-year-old boy from Richmond, said, "What can you give me as far as proof that you are going to work on the economy?"

Bernadette, a young registered nurse, said "give some concrete plans for how you'll make this country better."

Brad Dayspring, an adviser to the Super PAC "Young Guns," said he's found some similar sentiments in focus groups his organization has conducted among women voters. The biggest challenge for Romney, said Dayspring, is to pass "the competency test." Romney does need to point to some tangible plan or example of how he's going to get the economy back on track.

While Romney has some work to do in defining himself and his plans, Dayspring argues that Obama is already defined as someone who "doesn't have a lot of accomplishments."

These women are only peripherally engaged in the political, but they already have a sense that they'll be voting for someone they aren't completely convinced is up to the job at hand.