What Are Iowans Thinking . . .
by Jen Green
We talked for two hours to eleven uncommitted or soft-committed Iowa caucus-goers Monday night in our second undecided voters forum. It was an incredibly informative session. We will be posting audio of the entire focus group Tuesday, but in the interim, here’s a quick rundown of the highlights:
The group was six men and five women. They ranged in age from 25 to 68. Two-thirds of the group did not vote in the straw poll, all but two in the group are regular church attenders. Those who say they are uncommitted cite lack of clarity on the issues, lack of competency and consistency on the campaign trail, and marked weaknesses in each candidate as the reasons they are still undecided.
In all, Steve asked the group fourteen questions.
Question 1: Do you agree that Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul’s strong stance on the debt ceiling helped them win the straw poll? If so, what message does that send to the other candidates?
The group all agreed that Bachmann and Paul’s leadership in the debt ceiling debate helped them in the straw poll. And unilaterally, they all agreed that the “take away” from this for the candidates should be to take a stand on issues and stop compromising. The group is strongly against the idea of taking “the best deal” and any kind of pragmatism.
Question 2: What is the real problem you have with Ron Paul?
Most in the group said their biggest concern with Ron Paul is his foreign policy, but they also take issue with his “extreme” position on state’s rights on all the social issues.
Question 3: Give me the word or phrase you think of when I mention a candidate’s name.
You really need to listen to the audio for this one because I can’t do it justice. Let’s just say, if you’re a Romney, Cain, or Perry fan—you might want to have thick skin to listen in. It’s somewhat cringe-inducing.
Question 4: Are Newt’s three marriages a problem for you?
All said absolutely yes, but to varying degrees. What seemed to bother the group more than the divorces (and several in the group have been divorced) were the affairs and the seeming lack of public repentance for them. Some in the group feel Gingrich has done enough to restore their faith in him, most did not, though. Which lead to the follow up question 5.
Question 5: Did Newt do enough at the Family Leader’s Presidential Forum to atone for his baggage?
Most said no, one said yes.
Question 6: Why is Herman Cain’s campaign nose-diving? Is it the allegations or his stand on the issues?
The group said both, although I heard words like “shallow” and “incompetence” quite a bit. They said his campaign management has really hurt him, too. Out of eleven folks, none in that room were Cain supporters at all.
Question 7: What are your major influences during the vetting process?
Most in the group cited the Internet as either their main or one of the main sources of information. More than a third (four) said the Bible/Biblical worldview was their main influence. Many said talk radio was an influence, only two mentioned television and no one mentioned major networks, just cable networks. Several mentioned that they use social media (like Facebook) to see what their friends are recommending for news, too.
Question 8: What doesn’t the media get about you as a voter (Iowa value voter)?
Right off the bat, several said since the media don’t understand their biblical worldview and their faith in Christ, they are unable to understand them as a voter. The group seemed to agree that the media also don’t understand just how educated Iowans are about this process and how seriously we take it.
Question 9: Have you learned anything about a candidate that made you reconsider them?
Several agreed that Gingrich’s speech at the Value Voter’s summit and/or at the Iowa Faith and Freedom event that highlighted what he will do with the courts and judicial supremacy is what changed their mind to reconsider him. Also mentioned was Santorum’s answer at the Ames Straw Poll on the value of life even when the child is conceived in rape or incest.
Question 10: Should the candidates rally around the GOP flag or should they “duke it out” and fight to win?
Unequivocally again, they all said the candidates should fight to win—but don’t just go negative. Tell us about the others’ record, then make the case for YOU to be the right one for the job. The group wants desperately to see some aggressive leadership—and grudgingly admit they are really only seeing it from the very flawed Newt Gingrich during the debates.
Question 11: Are the debates impacting your decision at all? And, why do you think the candidates aren’t going after Romney in them?
The group seemed to believe the debates are somewhat helpful—especially to watch how the candidates behave toward one another. But, in a word, they want someone to please stand up and “land a punch” (metaphorically) on Mitt Romney. No one has done so to their satisfaction.
Question 12: Who, in your opinion, is playing to win at this point?
Romney and Newt Gingrich.
Question 13 a, b, and c: a) Do endorsements impact you at all?
Most said “no.” They say more about the endorser than the endorsee. They view organizational endorsements as purely political.
b) Should the Family Leader have included Newt Gingrich on their short list? Did it hurt them that they did?
10 out of 11 said no, they shouldn’t have included him, and yes, it hurt The Family Leader to include him on the list. The group does not think The Family Leader should endorse either Gingrich or Perry and to do so would render them not credible as an organization. They want to see The Family Leader endorse issues and not candidates at all.
c) Would a Steve King or Bob Vander Plaats endorsement impact you?
10 out of 11 said no, 1 said yes that it would play into their decision making process.
Final question 14: Who do you think will win the Iowa caucuses—but who do you want to win?
Most believe Newt Gingrich will win, but most want either Michele Bachmann or Rick Santorum to win.