TAMPA---If Mitt Romney is to win the presidency, he would do well to heed the words of self-described moderate swing voters such has those who participated in a focus group in Tampa Sunday afternoon.
Republican pollster Frank Luntz convened the group of 23 men and women as a way to assess political trends in the key swing state of Florida. And by the looks of it, Romney's still got some work to do.
"The campaign is still Mitt Romney's to lose," but swing voters remain skeptical of him, Luntz explains.
Based on the two-hour focus group, it appears that these voters are balancing two conflicting feelings: a desire to reward a personally popular President Obama for trying his best to improve the economy, and a belief that GOP challenger Romney would be better equipped to turn things around even though they don't like him very much.
As the Republican National Convention begins in Tampa, Romney needs to show that he is not just "another politician" and "demonstrate that he gets it" in terms of understanding the problems of everyday Americans while at the same time reinforcing the idea that he can fix the economy, Luntz said.
Nearly all of the focus group participants voted for Obama in 2008, and nearly all of them have become disappointed in his job performance since then.
Asked to give a word or phrase to describe Obama, their verdicts were mixed. Focus group participants think he seems smart and well-intentioned but they also used these words: "extremely disappointing ... narcissistic ... incapable." But participants still admire Obama for trying to fix the economy.
Asked to give a word or phrase to describe Romney, the assessments were also mixed. Typical descriptions were, "articulate ... accomplished ... educated ... out of touch ... don't trust him." But they respected his history of being successful in his past endeavors.
Luntz said the swing voters don't want to be bludgeoned into supporting Romney. Nor do they want to be told that they "made a mistake" by voting for Obama in 2008.
"You have to ask them, did you get what you voted for, and ask if it's time for a change," Luntz said.
If he were advising Obama, Luntz said would tell him to "ask Americans to give him permission" to spend four more years working and fighting for them.
Luntz's focus group was sponsored by the University of Phoenix.