One in four voters is “uncommitted” to either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney, the Associated Press reported this past weekend. Whether they’re an independent voter, a partisan who simply doesn’t like their option, or just a “persuadable,” this group of voters will be segmented, targeted, and assailed with campaign advertising until November 6, when they either swing for Obama, Romney, or simply don’t vote at all.
The campaign communications that the Obama and Romney have used to target these “undecideds” since 2010 have both varied drastically as both sides tested and experimented with what worked with their party bases, but since Romney assumed the status of the Republican nominee, there’s been a tightening of focus on both sides’ message. Steve Kornacki of Salon.com explored the targeted messages of the Obama and Romney campaigns in depth in a recent piece, and his insights are particularly valuable to any independent voter for the purpose of understanding how the both sides of the two party system are attempting to persuade uncommitted voters.
On the Romney message, Kornacki writes:
“The Romney campaign… is banking on the tendency of economically anxious swing voters to turn on the guy in charge and latch on to the opposition candidate as a vehicle for their frustrations… There’s a lot to be said for this formula. Their sense of how the economy is doing tends to shape how genuine swing voters shape their perceptions of a campaign – much more than ads, speeches, debates, gaffes and daily message wars do. More than anything else, this is why the race is so close and is expected to remain so through the fall, barring an unforeseen economic jolt.”
On Obama’s message, Kornacki explains that the President is focused on reminding voters of constraints of his first term:
“On the flip side is Obama’s strategy, which depends on these same swing voters balancing their anxiety and frustration with an appreciation of context… the fact that Obama inherited an economy that was in the midst of a Great Depression… that the mess came on his Republican predecessor’s watch… [and] that congressional Republicans have ignored his please to pass his jobs bill…”
Kornacki then offers two contrasting quotes from voters who have already “swung” one way or another based on the competing lines of thinking that each campaign is trying to persuade and convert with:
“I’m not going to vote for Obama,” said Raymond Back, a 60-year-old manufacturing plant manager from North Olmsted, Ohio… “I don’t know what Romney is going to do, but this isn’t the right way.”“Obama is the lesser of two evils,” says Rosean Smith, 38, an independent voter from Columbus, Ohio, who says Obama faced unrealistic expectations on the economy. “He was basically handed a sick drug baby and expected to make a genius out of it overnight.”