Obviously, we can argue how much we can learn from a focus group. But the results of this one surprised me a little:
during the first in a national series of focus-group discussions sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania’s non-partisan Annenberg Public Policy Center.
When the suburban Baltimore voters were asked who would be the safest choice to lead the country in these uncertain times, nearly all, including Democrats and independents, picked Republicans: former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Sen. John McCain or former Gov. Mitt Romney.
Only two chose Democrats: Obama and former Sen. John Edwards. None mentioned Clinton.
Veteran Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who led the two-hour session, said it would be a mistake to underestimate the importance of homeland security in the 2008 election, calling it “a hidden underlying issue.”
The cross-section of voters, which met here Monday night, reflected closely divided Baltimore County: Five Democrats, four Republicans and three independents.
The following sentences probably had Clinton campaign strategists reaching for antacid:
As for Clinton, voters couldn’t seem to get beyond concerns about her personality, her husband and her single-minded drive for power. Most said they wouldn’t vote for her under any circumstance. Some who had backed Bill Clinton said she has a long way to go to gain their trust.
“I totally agree with her stances, but she just comes off as cold and kind of conniving,” said Dennis Yeagle, 27, a Baltimore securities analyst who favors Obama.
Susana Lacayo, 37, of Owings Mills, described Clinton as someone who had been plotting her run for years. Even when her husband was in office, “you always felt that she wanted to become the president,” said the bank loan officer.
Obama elicited enthusiastic reactions across party lines, with voters describing him as “charismatic” and “smart.” At the same time, there was uneasiness about his limited track record.
The opening sentence of the article, by the way, is, “Americans will be choosing change in 2008, if a group of Maryland voters are any indication.” Which is kind of a lame observation, as President Bush is term-limited, and the president will be a change no matter which party wins.