(Photo: REUTERS/Jacob Slaton)
A focus group of "Walmart moms" conducted after Wednesday's presidential debate suggests that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney may have helped himself with this key swing vote in his effort to unseat President Barack Obama.
Walmart Moms Research, an ongoing study of "Walmart Moms," female voters with children 18 or younger at home who have shopped at Walmart at least once in the last month, is being jointly conducted by Public Opinion Strategies (a Republican polling firm) and Momentum Analysis (a Democratic polling firm).
Walmart moms have been a key swing vote in the last two election cycles. A majority voted for Obama in 2008 and swung back to Republican candidates in the 2010 midterm elections.
In the post-debate focus group of 30 Walmart moms, they all agreed that Romney won the debate and many suggested a willingness to consider voting for Romney, according to National Journal.
"I was undecided and [now] I'm more leaning towards Romney," one participant said.
Romney "seemed more sincere -- he just basically said I'm an American and I'd help America," another commented.
In other focus groups conducted over the summer, one of the key findings of Walmart Moms Research was that Walmart moms were trying to tune out the negative advertising, which they did not like, and were eagerly waiting the debates to help them decide who to support.
The three issues that matter most for Walmart Moms are the economy, education and health care, which were all addressed in Wednesday night's debate. Other so-called "women's issues" or social issues, such as abortion and contraception, are less important to these voters. They also said they wanted to hear specific and substantive discussions on the issues they care about.
Job creation was a central theme of Romney's that he carried throughout the debate. He also may have reassured some Walmart moms with some of his statements on health care and education. He said he would make sure that those with pre-existing conditions would be covered and he spoke of the importance of teachers in education.
Romney also talked about working with both political parties on health care reform when he was governor of Massachusetts and criticized the president for not doing the same on his health care reform. The post-debate focus group participants seemed to appreciate this.
"I felt more comfortable with him because at least he has attempted to work across the aisle," said one participant, according to ABC News. "I've not seen that from Obama."
Not all of the reactions to Romney were positive, though. Some described him as "rude," "pushy," and "assertive." Obama, on the other hand, was described as "defeated," "backpedling" and "speaking the same game."
An analysis of recent polls published Monday by National Journal suggested that Obama's lead in several key swing states was mostly due to a lead among white women without a college education, which overlaps with the Walmart moms demographic.
The Obama campaign has been targeting this group with ads in swing states designed specifically for them that run on daytime talk shows popular with women.
The analysis found that among most demographics, Obama performed about the same in the swing states as he did in the national polls. The one exception was white women without a college education. In the swing states, Obama is doing significantly better among this demographic than he is doing nationally.
"Convincing more working-class white women to reassess their tentative choice of Obama may be Romney's most urgent task in the presidential debates that begin this week," Ronald Brownstein wrote Monday for National Journal.
In the post-debate focus group, most Walmart moms said they are still undecided.
The vice presidential debate will be Thursday, Oct. 11, followed by the second of three presidential debates on Oct. 16.