Rob Christensen

Christensen: Walmart Moms divided on US Senate race

The so-called Walmart Moms were more interested in education, jobs and the economy than they were ISIS or Ebola.

And while they had not made up their minds about the North Carolina Senate race, they were certain about one thing – they were sick of all of the negative TV commercials.

“Everything we teach our kids – to be supportive and don’t bash the other kids,” said one woman. “Then we hear it on TV. This one is bashing this one and this one is bashing this one.”

Added a second woman: “We teach our kids not to bully. What are they doing?”

Ten Charlotte women gathered Tuesday night to participate in a focus group sponsored by Wal-Mart Stores. This is part of a project by the retail giant to examine the attitudes of swing voters during elections. The women were randomly selected but had to fit certain criteria – voters who have children at home 18 or younger, and who shopped at Walmart at least once during the past month. The focus group was conducted by a research team headed by Republican Neil Newhouse and by Democrat Margie Omero. Observers were allowed to watch from behind a one-way mirror.

Women are a key swing vote in this election, and are being heavily courted by Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan and her Republican challenger, state House Speaker Thom Tillis.

Obama not a factor

The women had doubts about whether President Barack Obama was a strong national leader and used words like “giving up” to describe him. But they said they were not basing their votes in the Senate race on Obama, suggesting the GOP campaign of tying Hagan to Obama had limited appeal.

They also had a low opinion of Congress and knew little about its leaders.

They were nervous about the economy, and they didn’t think the nation’s leaders understood the daily struggles of the middle class.

The gender issue seemed to have only limited appeal.

“I think it matters,” said one woman. “It is a male-dominated world. There a lot of things that affect women differently – how we get paid, choices about our body. I agree that she (Hagan) is not an overly motherly figure. But there are things that women can bring to the table that I don’t think that men can truly understand.”

But another woman countered, “I think there is a lot that women can bring to the table, but I’m not going to say I’m more favorable to this candidate because she is a woman. Girl power is great. But I am not going to say my vote is for her, just because she is a female.”

Still undecided

Despite all the TV advertising, the moms could not recall much about Hagan or Tillis. They could only remember a few of the TV ads, other than they were bashing each other.

These are busy people whose lives revolved around their families and their jobs, and watching the news didn’t seem to be a high priority, and they have only a passing interest in politics.

“Two weeks away,” said one woman, “I have no idea what these candidates stand for. I have no idea about what they have done.”

All the women said they were undecided in the Senate race but would make a decision in the next two weeks. Several mothers said they planned Googling for information on the Internet on election eve. One compared it to like “cramming for a test.”

Although undecided, the women were pushed to ask how they would vote if the election were held today. Over objections that they hadn’t yet decided, they cast their ballot. The vote was 5-5.

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