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Do Issues Matter?

Frank Luntz investigates.

4:29 PM, Sep 4, 2012 • By MICHAEL WARREN
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When Luntz asks the group what they thought of the RNC ad, one woman in the back, who has stayed quiet until now, pipes up. “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting change!” she says. The others nod in agreement. Obama the honest broker has become Obama the duplicitous politician.

But the group isn’t ready to dump Obama for Romney just yet. They recognize the president’s failure to live up to his promises, but Romney still looks like a gamble to these independents, perhaps a bridge too far. The Obama ads criticizing Romney’s work at Bain Capital, particularly the charges that Romney helped outsource American manufacturing jobs and closed down plants and factories, reinforced this group’s concerns about how their economic fortunes might worsen under a Republican administration. The ads knocking Romney’s tax shelters in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands, too, struck a populist note with those folks who say their paychecks are shrinking while their tax bills are growing.

“Why can he get away with paying half the taxes the rest of us do?” asks one woman.

Luntz says, ultimately, Romney can’t just rely on Obama fatigue to win the small but critical margin of voters represented in his focus group. It’s not that Obama’s argument on the economy is stronger—it isn’t. Most voters, Luntz explains, seem to agree that Romney’s business experience and Obama’s failure in office are reasons enough for a change in the White House. But if that’s true, why is the race still so close? It’s all about personality.

“They’re going to have to vote for Mitt Romney,” Luntz says. “If they understand that Romney gets it, he wins.”

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