Who are Tampa Bay's undecided voters?

8:11 PM, Oct 16, 2012   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida -- To find the elusive species known as the undecided voter, you perhaps need only forage through Florida's foliage to Walmart? Yep. Walmart.

"I don't know what I'm gonna do yet," said Walmart shopper Kristy King as she strolled her cart and 17-month-old daughter McKinley up to the Walmart Superstore on Gandy Boulevard in South Tampa.

King is what a Romney campaign pollster recently called a "Walmart Mom." The undecided voters' demographic? Usually a woman. White. Busy. Her level of education and income keeping her more occupied with putting food on the table, giving her less time for politics.

It may explain why King hasn't had time to make up her mind yet. But she has every intention of watching the second presidential debate.

"Do I feel like we're financially sound like we were four years ago? No. But can Romney get us there? I don't know either," she said.

Finding undecided voters is also knowing about where not to look. Candidates can't afford to spend much more time or money on people who they've already won over or turned off.

Folks like Marlon Jarvis, for example, is a 39-year-old African-American father of six from Tampa.

Jarvis was unemployed when president Obama took office, but the union construction worker is now back to work.

"That's good for me," said Jarvis, who thinks Obama's plan is working and intends to vote for him again.

For small businessman Jim Schalk the choice is equally clear. The 53-year-old white male, owns a small business in South Tampa, and isn't shy about showing his support for Romney.

"Less government, maybe less taxes, and less interference from the government," is what Schalk says he would like to see. "Let us do our job and get moving again," he says.

USF Political Science professor Susan MacManus says this second debate -- especially given its town hall format -- may finally influence those still on the fence. The key, she says is for the candidates to understand what the undecided voters want to see. Not necessarily what they want to hear.

Respect, and body language, she says, may be as important in winning over people who haven't made up their minds yet based upon more conventional social and economic issues.

"Can the candidates answer the questions directly and not go off on tangents. Because going off on tangents to late deciders who aren't as informed is not gonna be very helpful.," says MacManus.

That's why "Walmart Mom" Kristy King says she, like other undecided voters, will be watching for the candidate who doesn't necessarily share her view on issues, buy who she feels is telling the truth.

"I mean, something tangible. Something we can really grasp onto and look forward to the future," is what King says she's looking for. "Because right now I'm not sure."

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