(Photo: REUTERS/Chris Keane)
With at least 10 percent of the U.S. voting population undecided 70 days before the election, Democrats and Republicans are launching wildly different strategies to gather in what pundits are calling the "persuadables."
There's a growing movement among Democrats to make social issues – abortion rights and Todd Akin in particular – the centerpiece of the Democratic National Convention when it convenes in Charlotte next week. Meanwhile, the GOP is focusing on the economy and the failed policies of the last four years.
Pollsters say about eight percent of likely voters are still undecided. Three percent on each side reportedly are still on the fence and may yet change their votes.
Rep. Todd Akin, who is leaving the House of Representatives to run for the U.S. Senate in Missouri, touched off a firestorm just days after his primary victory earlier this month after using the phrase "legitimate rape" when answering an abortion question. Calls from both Democrats and Republicans for him to exit the race went unanswered as he announced last Friday that he was in the race to stay.
That led to celebrations within Democratic circles as they pondered ways to highlight Akin's poor choice of words as an example of just how out of touch the GOP is on women's issues, especially to women who tend to lean independent.
In an effort to draw a vivid distinction between themselves and Republicans over women's issues, Democrats will tout speakers like the head of Planned Parenthood and NARAL, as well as Sandra Fluke, to highlight in prime time what they feel could mobilize independent voters in November.
But according to groups such as American Crossroads, these same independent voters may not bite on these issues because they are moving away from President Obama and care more about the economy than social issues such as abortion and contraception. And that is just what the Romney camp wants to hear.
Steven Law, who along with noted Republican politicos Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, founded the Super PAC American Crossroads, has research that shows even though voters feel the president means well and is a "fine person," he lacks the ability to solve the nation's problems. Law and his partners plan on spending around $300 million to drive that point home.
Yet before those ads air, the Democrats will use their convention airtime to try and highlight how far-flung the Republicans are when it comes to women's rights. Fluke is the Georgetown law student that talk-show host Rush Limbaugh called a "slut" earlier this year and last week was tapped to address a nationwide audience during the Democratic Convention to discuss this very issue. She has also testified before a group of congressional Democrats and introduced President Obama during a campaign stop in Colorado last week.
"When it comes to a woman's right to make her own health care choices," Obama said of Republicans, "they want to take us back to policies better suited to the 1950s than the 21st century. Colorado, you have to make sure it doesn't happen."
The president also found another opportunity on Saturday to pound Romney on the same issue during an interview with The Associated Press, noting that the former Massachusetts governor would not stand in the way of some of the abortion language that found its way into the GOP platform.
"I don't think that if Congress presented him (Romney) with some of the items that are in the Republican platform at this convention that would, for example, entirely roll back women's control over their reproductive health, that he would stand in the way," said Obama.
And although many Republicans still care deeply about social issues, the topic they would prefer to discuss is the economy. It is also the same topic the Obama campaign wants to avoid.
Earlier this month the Obama camp tried to turn the tables on Romney's business record by targeting independent and undecided voters with an ad suggesting that Romney was to blame for the death of a Massachusetts woman whose husband was laid off years earlier by a company Bain Capital acquired. The misinformation in the ad backfired on the Obama campaign and Romney picked up as many as six percentage points in some polls, according to a Vanderbilt University/YouGov Ad rating project. The Obama campaign has since distanced themselves from the Super PAC ad.
Even with a heightened frustration level by "persuadables" that Obama is not the person to lead America back to prosperity, the Romney campaign has to convince those same voters that he in fact, is that man. In other words, Romney has to begin to define himself as someone other that the person portrayed in the Obama attack ads.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal last week, Law said when Romney shows voters he is a "decent, competent, and successful" person, his "negatives fall away very quickly."