“I’m definitely not voting for Obama. Our country’s in the worst mess ever, and certainly he needs to take some responsibility,” said Bobbie Hodge, 71, a retired nurse from Iron County, Mo. “And yet, I’m not sure about Romney.”
After filing for bankruptcy in 2010, Sue Grigsby, 46, who works with special-needs students at Maumee High School in northwest Ohio, said thing are getting back to normal. “Honestly, we hit rock bottom,” Grigsby said, “but we’re getting back on our feet.”
In these next 100 days, President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney and their political allies will spend hundreds of millions of dollars trying to sway uncommitted voters in a few key states. These are the people they’re after.
Interviews with dozens of voters in Florida, Missouri, Ohio and Virginia illustrate just how complicated each voter’s decision can be and, sometimes, how very far removed it is from the election strategies being mapped out in campaign conference rooms in Chicago or Boston or Washington.
The conversations with voters also show how little the daily media circus of gaffes and campaign ads and surrogate attacks actually moves its intended targets. After months of heavy advertising by Romney, many voters knew only that he is Mormon, rich and not Obama.
This weekend, the Obama campaign kicks off the last 100 days of campaigning with 4,600 small events around the country, including Olympics-watching parties, house parties and “Barbecues for Barack.”
The Romney campaign is taking a different approach. The candidate is in Israel this weekend as part of an overseas tour designed to enhance his image as an international statesman.
“I’m not sure that 100 days out is going to feel much different than 105 days out or 95 days out,” said Ed Gillespie, a senior Romney adviser. He said the campaign thinks that less than 10 percent of the electorate should be considered truly “undecided.” Still, Gillespie said, in comparison with the Obama camp, “we’d rather play our hand than theirs.”
As it turns out, the fight is for an extraordinarily small slice of the U.S. electorate.
In one recent poll, more than two-thirds of voters said they already had all the information they needed to make their choice.
So a few undecided people, in just a few places, could swing an entire country. Washington Post reporters visited four counties that could be decisive. All four voted for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004 and then for Obama in 2008, and each is in a state that will be crucial to the outcome in November.