PURCELLVILLE, Va.: Undecided voters in swing states hold the key to the presidential election, but neither Mitt Romney nor Barack Obama has an easy recipe for winning them over.
Today’s new jobs report, even if dismal for incumbent President Obama, might do little to help challenger Romney with this group.
Undecided voters interviewed this week said they place little importance on such statistics, even though both campaigns mine them for every possible advantage.
Instead, these voters want more details about Romney’s economic proposals and Bain Capital record, less bickering between the parties and a greater sense of inspiration and leadership from both candidates.
Some of them acknowledge that’s a vague wish list. But with less than a dozen states in play, and polls showing that about 10 percent of the electorate remains undecided, this sliver of hard-to-please Americans could decide the Nov. 6 election.
Scott Davison, who works at a bicycle shop in Purcellville, Va., is typical of on-the-fence voters interviewed this week in Virginia, Ohio and Florida. Romney has a chance to dissuade him from his inclination toward Obama, Davison said, but the former Massachusetts governor must offer more details about how he would improve the economy.
“I’m not seeing anything substantial that Romney has to offer,” said Davison, 40, who lives in politically competitive Loudoun County. “I’m just seeing superficial stuff.”
Davison, who studied economics at Colorado State University and weighs his words before speaking, said he puts little campaign stock in monthly employment reports.
Elected officials, he said, “can help steer policy. But it’s like the QE2. If you make a change up at the bow, it’s going to take miles and miles to turn it around.”
Forty miles south, in the Washington exurb of Manassas, Va., Chuck Neal is no fan of Obama, but Romney hasn’t locked down his vote. TV ads criticizing Romney’s time at the private-equity company Bain Capital have raised questions for Neal, 50, a manager at a busy millworking plant.
Romney has a record of “sending business overseas and taking it away from us,” Neal said, reciting a theme from the frequently run ads, which Romney disputes. “We don’t have a lot of good choices.”
Mike McKenna, a Virginia-based Republican researcher who conducts focus groups of undecided voters nationwide, said he’s not surprised by such comments. The barrage of Democratic TV ads attacking Romney’s record at Bain, he said, “has done a lot of damage.”
In central Ohio, Don Athey of Galloway said Obama has fallen short of some earlier presidents’ records.
“When Ronald Reagan was president, I had a lot of money in my pocket,” said Athey, 49, a computer systems analyst. “When Bill Clinton was president, I had a lot of money in my pocket. Right now, I don’t.”
In trying to decide whom to support, he said, “it’s a matter of trying to determine which guy is going to get us from point A to point B the quickest and the best. I think Mr. Obama has made a lot of good effort, but I have a lot of respect for Mr. Romney, too.”
In Hilliard, another Columbus suburb, high school history teacher Krislynn Wright, 36, is a swing voter who is pessimistic about the economy. She voted for George W. Bush in 2004, for Obama in 2008 and is undecided in this year’s race.
Wright said she is concerned about the cost of the new health-care law and the size of the national debt. She said she will keep an eye on today’s jobs report but believes a healthy economy is a way off.
“I would love to say we’re out of a recession,” Wright said, “but we have more kids on free and reduced lunch than I’ve ever seen before at my school.”