MAITLAND, Fla. -- Cheryl Abbarno was the most excited she's ever been about a presidential election when Barack Obama was on the ballot in 2008, but she isn't sure she'll vote for him again. "It's discouraging to me that he's not doing what he said he's going to do. When he was campaigning, it was change, change, change, and I don't see any change," she said.
Abbarno is a Walmart mom -- women with children younger than 18 at home who shop at the discount superstore --and two polling firms, one Democratic, one Republican, are following women like her because they think they'll play a key role in next year's presidential election.
Their No. 1 concern is the economy. They're split fairly evenly by party affiliation, but more important, they are persuadable voters who will decide late in the election cycle whether they'll support Obama or the eventual Republican nominee.
Or, as Neil Newhouse of the Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies said, they're the new soccer moms -- about 14 percent to 17 percent of the electorate, predominantly white and a key swing group.
In 2008, Walmart moms supported Obama, but in 2010 they voted Republican, though not enthusiastically, according to Public Opinion Strategies and Momentum Analysis, a firm that works with Democratic candidates and groups.
A poll the firms released Wednesday shows 43 percent of Walmart moms approve of Obama's job performance while 54 percent disapprove. That compares to 46 percent of all voters who approve of Obama and 49 percent who disapprove. Yet 57 percent of the moms said they are still hopeful about the president compared to 42 percent who have given up on him. And three times as many of the moms, 22 percent, blame President George W. Bush for the nation's economic problems rather than Obama, who 7 percent of the moms say is to blame.
"There are good lessons from this data for both Democrats and Republicans," said Margie Omero of Momentum Analysis. "The bottom line from these results is that this is a group that can be persuaded either way in the presidential contest."