I spent some time talking with the sort of voter in northern Virginia that Obama must win to take the state. What was striking was how deeply some of them have absorbed a negative image of Romney that tracks with the version Dems have painted: An out of touch plutocrat who can’t be trusted and hasn’t been forthcoming about his plans for the country.
These voters have real reservations about Obama and the economy. But they have a reservoir of trust in him, and are very skeptical of Romney’s claim that he’d fix the economy faster than it is recovering under Obama. (My unscientific survey is only intended to provide texture.)
To win Virginia, which is a dead heat, Obama needs to run up sizable margins in places like Fairfax, a county he won last time, thanks to a demographic mix — more minorities, upscale suburban independents, and younger voters — that leans towards Democrats.
Ann, a middle aged Fairfax preschool teacher and self described independent, is the sort of voter you’d think Romney would win over. She’s very worried about the economy: “I’m really scared for these people who are out of work, and I don’t want to be one of them,” she says. Yet she’s leaning towards Obama anyway: “I don’t trust Mitt Romney at all.” she says. She’s seen the ads about the layoffs at Bain, which she calls “horrible,” and they seem to have stuck with her. “I think he’s a rich guy who gets rich off of middle class people,” she says.
Asked what Romney would do for the economy, she was unable to say. “He won’t tell us his plan,” she says, repeating a regular Dem refrain. As for Obama: “He’s more honest. He’s trying to do what’s right.”
Another voter you’d think Romney could reel in is Jim, a Fairfax attorney and self described moderate — the sort of moderately upscale independent who is helping transform Virginia into a battleground state. He voted for John McCain in 2008 and backed George Bush twice. But he’s backing Obama, with reservations, because he doesn’t think Romney stands for anything. “There’s just something about him — I can’t pin him down,” Jim says. “I can’t trust what he says.” Jim, who seems like a Dem-leaning indy on policy, doesn’t buy Romney’s claims to economic wizardry, noting that he finds “no substance” in his insistence that cutting government will speed the recovery.
Chris Christie’s praise for Obama’s handling of Sandy finally persuaded Jim to support Obama. “When Christie stood up and said the president is doing a great job on this, that meant a lot to me,” he said.
The type of voter Romney likely will win over is Susie, a retired bank worker. Susie expresses the same doubts about Romney — she doesn’t know if he’ll help “people like me” — but says she is leaning towards Romney anyway. She allows Obama has made “progress” on the economy but says: “I don’t know if he’s strong enough to fix everything.” Romney, meanwhile, “knows what he’s doing.”
Candi, an independent who works in a Fairfax supermarket, also would seem like easy pickings for Romney after backing Obama last time. She had to battle recently for a raise and continues to struggle. But she doesn’t believe Romney’s claims that he’d fix the economy faster.
“No one was going to change it in four years,” she says. “I don’t think Obama’s had a fair chance yet. I think he deserves time.”
As for Romney, she is troubled by what she’s heard about how Romney “bought small businesses and put them out,” and associates him with the corporation that owns her supermarket. “I don’t know that a businessman is the right person to be running the United States,” she says. She doesn’t understand why Republicans want to “cut cut cut” social programs that help the sick and the elderly and says of Obama: “I’m just glad he’s looking to take care of people.”