Sunday, July 03, 2011

Midwest Conversations

One of my habits is to do itinerant talk with strangers.   These conversations are a good way for me to take the pulse of the areas I am in.  So for the last couple of days I have been chatting up both the people we were visiting and people in restaurants.   I am interested in how people are feeling about the current situation.  This kind of survey is admittedly not scientific but as I do it more and more I can at least have an idea about things.

So how did the conversations go?   First, there were a couple of distinct groups.  The first, in Chicago, were probably McCain voters in 2008.  One of my wife's cousins is in the grocery business.  The general response around the table on Thursday night was that the President has been a disaster.   Not surprising based on their expected voting patterns.  But the intensity of the response was high.  I did not get the same sense from conversations with people in 2008 (not these same people).

The second group of people were in Michigan.  They were partially from my wife's family at a wedding and in conversations with people in the hotel we stayed at.   It is pretty clear that most of the Michiganders I spoke with had been with Obama in 2008.   They are not there now.   One person in the health industry described the President as a "disaster."   He was worried that the health care plan adopted by Congress would help to destroy the health care system.  He said we needed to do something; but this was the wrong thing.   When we went to the wedding in the afternoon, I had the chance to speak to several people.  It was clear that most of the guests at the wedding had been Obama supporters and now they were more open to alternatives.  They were concerned that the stimulus package was simultaneously overly expansive and ineffective.   They were bothered that some people were able to escape irresponsible obligations encountered in the real estate boom and bust.   I have the sense that real estate is not as big a topic as it is in either coast.  (The data also seems to confirm that.)  They understand that the "recovery" that the President keeps talking about has not come to Michigan yet; although one Ford worker said she thought the company had begun to build back.

So well before most decent people think about politics I came to two conclusions.  The GOP voters I spoke with seem to remain as fired up as they were in 2010.   The dems and independents are open to listening to someone besides the person they voted for in 2008.   But it is clear to me that the GOP should be careful in messaging.  The 2012 election will be about economics (as many recent ones have been).  If the GOP nominates a social conservative with no economic credentials the President will have a good shot.  If they nominate someone who has something credible to say about economics and growth, they will have a good shot at making Obama a Jimmy Carter redux.

The second conclusion I found, from a couple of people including one former reporter who is now making a business for online news, is that traditional news sources are received with increasing skepticism.  The networks and talk shows which once held sway are becoming less and less relevant.  Rush is becoming a relic.  So are his left and right clones.

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