When I worked on campaigns, I often found focus groups sobering. They were often a rude awakening that the message sent to the voters was not the message received. I was reminded of some of those sessions by a Peter Hart memo on a focus group he conducted recently with voters in Denver. Peter's group consisted of swing voters who mostly supported Obama four years ago. As of today, the president can count on few of them for support.
What is most disturbing about this snapshot is what it doesn't show: virtually no confidence among voters that either candidate has a plan to right the economy. Despite the fact that both campaigns and the opinion echo chamber elite have been harping on the pivotal nature of the 2012 election, this group of voters sees little hope that things will change. Of course, this is most ominous for Obama, given that he ran on those very promises four years ago. The focus group underscores a central dynamic of this race: The gap between voters' expectations of Obama and their perceptions of his actual performance. It is perhaps not too much to say that many voters have had their hearts broken and are finding it hard to trust and love again.