Clipping coupons and shopping off the clearance rack has become the new normal for a group of women that some predict will be a key voting demographic in the 2012 election.
Called the Walmart mothers, these women are in their late-20s to mid-50s, have children at home and generally have household incomes of $50,000 to $150,000 a year.
Most have had at least some college and have worked during their adult lives. They are part of what many consider the middle class that politicians of both parties say they are working for.
On Wednesday night, 10 Iowa women — who fit the Walmart mom demographic — took part in a discussion at Essman Research in Des Moines on behalf of Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican-leaning polling firm, and Momentum Strategies, a Democrats’ operation.
To a person, they said concern over the economy is what keeps them up at night and has forced them to change they way they were living. Health care, specifically the lack of it, was a primary concern for many of the women, who said years ago it wasn’t even something they thought about.
“It kills me to spend $3 on toothpaste,” said Meghan K., a photographer from Adel and mother of a 4-year-old who said she now shops exclusively from the clearance and sales racks. Meghan said she leans Democrat when she votes. Essman provided demographic information about the participants, but not their last names.
But if politicians believe they are working for the middle class, these women don’t see it.
“I don’t think anybody is working for the good for the country,” said Christine D., a Republican-leaning scientist from Gilbert who has two children, one 4 years old and one 2 years old. “They are working for the good of the lobbyists.”
The women said they felt the politicians in Washington, D.C., were insulated from the real world. They felt Congress and the president bicker over politics to the harm of actually getting policy done, and that a lot of what politicians do is for show.
“The golf game between President (Barack) Obama and (Speaker of the House John) Boehner, could there be any more PR crap?” said Rhoda C., with a roll of her eyes. “You both loathe each other.”
Rhoda works as a bookkeeper and is the mother of a 12-year-old in Des Moines.
But the women didn’t blame either the president or Congressional leaders for the problems in Washington or the economy as a whole. They said that both have a hand in it and they also thought that both inherited problems from the past.
As for their thoughts on the president, four women said they’d likely vote for Obama, while five said they would likely not vote for him. Of those, Lisa K., an Altoona mother of three, was the only person who said she’s likely to switch her vote from the 2008 election when she supported Obama.
She said she actually cried when the president was elected in 2008 because she was happy and felt optimistic about the future. Now, she said, things have changed.
“The older I get, I lean more to the conservative side. I don’t think I’d vote for him again,” she said.
But as far as picking an alternative, the non-Obama supporters said they weren’t quite sure. They liked former Godfather CEO Herman Cain’s business experience and they were glad that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin didn’t get into the race.
A few said they were intrigued by Waterloo native and Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, but, in the words of Julie B., a business analyst and mother of three from New Virginia, Bachmann “got a little extreme for me.”