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'Walmart moms': struggling but hopeful … and estranged from Congress

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Life isn’t easy for “Walmart moms” – women with children at home who shop at least once a month at the world’s largest retailer. They are struggling to pay the bills and raise their kids. Most are married; some are their family’s sole breadwinner after their husband’s layoff.

They use words like “busy” and even “chaotic” to describe their lives, but through it all, they remain hopeful, two focus groups conducted this week reveal about this key bloc of swing voters.

“Without hope, what do you have?” says Courtney G. from Kansas City, Mo., a mother of two young children who works two part-time jobs. Her husband was laid off, and his severance is running out.

A bipartisan team of pollsters began studying this demographic in 2008, and has been tracking their views since. Walmart moms represent about 15 percent of the electorate; half have household incomes under $50,000 a year, 60 to 70 percent are white, and almost half are college-educated.

They voted for Barack Obama in 2008, swung Republican in the 2010 midterms, and voted narrowly to reelect President Obama last fall. In other words, they mirror the electorate as a whole, and can offer clues to both parties on how to address the issues of the day.

“They have logistical struggles and difficulties,” says Margie Omero of Momentum Analysis, a Democratic polling firm. “That’s the prism and the lens through which they view all political issues.”

The focus groups of 10 women each – one in Kansas City, the other in Philadelphia – met on Wednesday to discuss Obama’s State of the Union address the night before. A few women had watched the whole speech, but most had not. After all, they’re busy moms, juggling work, school, kids’ activities, volunteering, and family time.

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