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Published in today's Columbus Dispatch is an editorial column titled Focus group: Debate hurt Obama, but 7 of the 12 support him by Joe Hallett, a Dispatch senior editor who regularly appears in the Sunday paper. The results of that focus group of what is arguably a reasonable cross-section of voters here in Ohio, leaves me thinking that the polls showing Obama with approx 4% lead here are accurate. I'm still scratching my head as to how people reach their conclusions on who would be better on the economy.

Sponsored by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, the group was well chosen: six women and six men, including an African-American, five of whom arrived leaning toward Obama and four toward Romney, with three undecided and most open to changing their minds. Only Hall described herself as “very liberal,” while two men said they were “somewhat conservative,” and the rest were self-described moderates.
The big takeaway from the editorial for me is that the sentiment of the group was the economy was the biggest factor in this election, but the majority, according to Hallett, chose Mitt Romney as the candidate who would "make the right decisions to grow the economy and to reduce the federal deficit". A secret ballot at the end of the session went 7-5 for Obama. Hallett viewed that the group couldn't get past the disconnect between someone ultra-rich like Romney and themselves. “He strikes me as the guy at the top of your company who shakes your hand and then says, ‘We’ve got to get rid of him.’ ”said Michael Larger, a participant in the focus group.

Skew the question and get the answer you want. I think that when you narrow down the issue of the economy the way Hallett did then the results of the focus group contradict the notion that this election is about the economy. Open up a broader definition of the economy and you will find why the focus group voted the way they did and why I think the electorate is smarter than reporters,pundits and the beltway give them credit for. Which candidate do you think will do a better job of growing the economy for middle income families? Which candidate will do more to bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S.? Which candidate will do more to protect Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid? Which candidate do you think will work to hold Wall Street in check and shore up the housing market so that what happened in 2008 will not happen again? Which candidate's health care vision do you think will protect families from going bankrupt due to sudden illness or loss of job/insurance? All questions about the economy that line up with the vote result of the focus group. Could Hallett be more accurate that it is because people just don't like Mitt Romney because of his wealth, sure but I doubt it.

Which brings me to Sensata and Bain. The President's campaign and PBO need to make this front and center, because it further illuminates to the electorate and reinforces people's dislike for Romney. I believe that if the trad media doesn't make this prominent before Tuesday's debate, PBO is going to have to find a strong way to introduce it in during the debate.

Another aside that seemed to suprise Hallett was that their seemed to be broader support for "Obamacare" than he expected. “You talk about the backlash against Obamacare; there’s also a front-lash,” a respondant in the focus group said. I think that traditional news media has lost sight of what Americans really care about, they see the popularity of reality tv and think that that is what the the majority of the populace want to see in political news reporting.

 I had to appreciate some of the direct quotes from members of the focus group, some of which I have already included. When asked which candidate they would want as a neighbor Jessica Hall responded “I cannot afford that ZIP code,”. Catherine Allen added “I think he’d outsource the neighborhood,”.

P.S. While writing this diary I was polled by a live phone pollster. I will be interested to see the polls that come out for Ohio in the coming weeks. I think they will hold steady for President Barack Obama or steadily increase.

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