Persuading the Undecided Voter
As a group, undecided voters are unlikely to be swayed by reason alone and its often dry abstractions. If they were moved by these things, undecideds would already be in Romney's camp.
Obama's campaign is almost entirely predicated on the manipulation of base passions; there is very little reason behind it. He speaks of empathy while delivering rhetoric steeped in class warfare and identity politics. But while poisonous, this guttersnipe politicking has failed to define the atmosphere of the campaign, in spite of the MSM's assistance at every turn.
So it stands to reason that Romney's solution to the undecided voter problem is to appeal to higher emotions than those tapped by Obama, and to attach those emotions to policies presented in such a way that principles, rather than macroeconomic details, come to the fore.
At every turn, Obama plays on rage, envy, guilt, fear, and the like -- so Romney should, without moralizing, appeal to the feelings that undergird moral rectitude.
In doing so, he should put things in a way so as to help frame the choice made by the undecided without overtly making it for them -- thereby creating the opportunity for a decision most of the undecided will be pleased to make.
For example, take food stamps, the national debt, and trade -- three interrelated topics, particularly when assessed from the vantage point of propriety. Romney should ask undecided voters -- without using numbers stacked upon numbers -- just who is feeding the 47 million people on food stamps.
Do undecided voters think it is a good thing that our government is so broke that it must depend on China (many of whose workers labor in grueling conditions) and Saudi Arabia to loan us enough money to feed our poor?
Do undecided voters really think that the president actually sympathizes with downtrodden Americans? Not only has he failed to improve joblessness, but he feeds many of the jobless with dollars that increasingly do not belong to us, but instead to those who have no concern at all for America's poor, but every interest in using those dollars to boost their own economies and for geopolitical advantage.
Wouldn't it be better if we really took care of our own with the fruits of American labor?
With gas prices, quarrels about technicalities involving oil permits on federal lands and in federal waters are not going to move many undecided voters. Romney would be much better-served to say something like this: "in the last debate, the president said that the reason gas was so low when he took office is because the economy wasn't doing well. Does that explain why gas is so high now? Plus, look at the price of gas in the Clinton years compared to now. The president speaks frequently about how well the economy performed under President Clinton, but gas prices were not even half what they are today. Like President Clinton, but unlike President Obama, I recognize that low gas prices don't mean that the economy is doing poorly. In fact, it usually means that the economy is doing well. If that makes sense to you, you might consider voting for me."
Concerning events in Libya, Romney should extend the response he began to give at the debate and tell the undecided something along these lines: "if you're uncertain whom to believe about whether the president initially blamed the attack on a video rather than terrorism, go ahead and give the president the benefit of the doubt. Whatever he really said before, he now claims it was a terrorist attack. Does going to a fundraiser in Las Vegas the next day sound to you like a good thing for a president to do in response to the murderous acts of terrorists?"
With regard to undecided female voters and female voters more generally, Romney should say that women are sure to be represented on his cabinet, and not because people on TV tell him that's what he's supposed to do, but instead because he knows plenty of individual women well qualified for very important positions.
He can then add that if, after he is elected president, critical mistakes are made by high-ranking officials, he will be man enough to take the blame rather than throw female cabinet members under the bus, and that Ann would not have it any other way.
Dr. Jason Kissner is associate professor of criminology at California State University, Fresno. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.