By Doug Livingston
Kate DeMay and Jodie Jacobson were undecided voters just two weeks ago.
But after joining more than 3 million people who have viewed the same Youtube video, each woman is now decidedly voting for a candidate — just not the same one.
DeMay, 21, will vote Democratic on Nov. 6, and Jacobson, 43, will throw her support behind the Republican Party.
The women are among a growing number of formerly undecided voters.
As the weeks wind down to the presidential election, undecided voters from Northeast Ohio align themselves with a candidate, while others remain hesitant.
TheNewsOutlet is following eight such voters, some previously undecided and others yet undecided. This is the second installment in a series that aims to reflect these voters’ opinions and the events that influence those opinions. TheNewsOutlet will periodically follow up with these voters leading up to the presidential election.
Undecided voters’ opinions change as the campaigns heat up and private videos surface, such as the Mother Jones video, which surreptitiously recorded Mitt Romney at a fundraiser dinner.
The video portrayed Romney ostracizing 47 percent of Americans who receive government assistance.
It affirmed DeMay’s impression of Romney and everything that Jacobson has avoided talking about for the past three months.
“I appreciate the fact that he said that,” Jacobson said. “If you need help, that’s one thing, but if that’s your lifelong income, I don’t think it’s right.”
But DeMay, who attends Kent State University and grew up in Poland, doesn’t pay income taxes because the full-time student has no income. She was offended by Romney’s comment that those on government assistance think of themselves as victims.
“By calling me a victim you’ve pretty much just solidified that I’m not going to be voting for you,” DeMay said.
Both women said they were undecided in early September.
When DeMay filled out her new voter registration form two weeks ago, she said she would be keeping a close eye on both presidential candidates.
She wasn’t ready to commit to a party; she could barely commit to a pair of shoes, she said.
Around the same time, Jacobson was wrapping up the last day of the season at her parents’ produce stand along Belmont Avenue in Trumbull County.
Jacobson avoided political conversations that might reveal her true beliefs and potentially offend customers.
But early on, Jacobson expressed the burden that government subsidies placed on providing for her family, and DeMay said she didn’t trust Romney.
And with other self-proclaimed undecided voters expressing partisan concerns, some experts question the claim of being an undecided voter.
“Oftentimes people who are leaning really are going to vote for the person for whom they’re leaning,” said Leonard Steinhorn, a professor of political communication at American University in Washington, D.C. “They’ll find evidence that will confirm how they’re leaning.”
Steinhorn was a political speech writer for 15 years. If he were working for the Republican Party on this presidential campaign, he said he would have advised Romney to not apologize for his remarks and remind the country that the jobless rate at 8.1 percent is the only percentage that matters.
His message may have worked for some such as Columbiana County resident Dan Warner, who said the economy and jobs continue to be a concern.
Warner said comprehensive fiscal reform is necessary to save the nation’s stagnant economy. Another possible round of stimulus under Obama worries him.
So, now he, too, is leaning like other undecided voters before him.
“I do believe [Romney’s] business background and his past leadership experience give him a better shot at making the tough decisions necessary to fix what’s wrong in our nation, fiscally,” Warner, 30, said.
While most undecided or formerly undecided voters mentioned Romney’s comments about 47 percent of Americans, some are giving less weight to the video.
Joe Sullivan has voted for both major political parties in the past.
Sullivan, a 60-year-old Boardman resident, said that while Romney’s remarks were a “stupid thing to say, ... if you depend on the government to take care of you, you will be sorely disappointed.”
Real Clear Politics, which aggregates national polls, shows Obama leading Romney by 4.1 points in Ohio as of Monday.
The average polling statistics, charting each campaign’s ups and downs like a heartbeat monitor, show Romney’s vital signs as relatively unscathed by the video.
Before the video’s release, Romney commanded 44.3 percent of the Ohio vote, according to Real Clear Politics. After the video was released, Romney lost a half a percentage point within a day but, as of Monday, has rebounded to 44.7 percent, higher than before the video first aired last Wednesday.
Steinhorn said the content of the video was damning for Romney’s campaign. But after his wife’s attempt to humanize the GOP candidate during the Republican National Convention, the video did something the Romney campaign has been trying to accomplish for some time.
“The Republicans keep saying, ‘We want the people to know the real Mitt Romney, the genuine Mitt Romney.’ Well, here was the real Mitt Romney,” Steinhorn said, “unvarnished, in a way that he didn’t plan it to be seen.”
But even Steinhorn, who called the video more than just a speed bump for the Romney campaign, said everything fades in time.
“It may not be top of mind forever, but it has certainly created a frame around [Romney],” Steinhorn said.
TheNewsOutlet of Youngstown State University is following eight such voters, some previously undecided and others yet undecided. This is the second installment in a series that aims to reflect these voters’ opinions and the events that influence those opinions. TheNewsOutlet will periodically follow up with these voters leading up to the presidential election.
Read full stories on the eight voters at thenewsoutlet.org