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Exclusive: Swing voters rate Trump’s State of Union speech ‘on the plus side of mediocre’

USA TODAY

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

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WASHINGTON – President Trump’s first State of the Union address did little to change the hearts and minds of a group of swing voters who liked his call for more vocational education and paid family leave but rated the speech overall as not terribly convincing.

“He looked presidential, he said all the right things, but let’s see what he implements,” said Lauren Price, a retired government worker who watched the speech Tuesday night with other voters as part of a focus group organized by the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington-based think tank.

Matthew Mielke, a business contractor from Washington, D.C., said Trump spoke well, was on message and looked presidential.

“But we always grade him on a weird curve,” Mielke said. “If he’s not foaming at the mouth and screaming, we say he did a good job.”

Lauren Price of Takoma Park, Md., thought Donald Trump sounded presidential during his first State of the Union address, but wants to see how he’s going to carry out his priorities. (Photo: Michael Collins/USA TODAY)

Overall, the dozen voters in the group rated the speech “on the plus side of mediocre,” said Rich Thau, president of Engagious, the message testing firm that organized the group on behalf of the policy center.

When asked if Trump said anything during the address that would have changed the way they voted in the 2016 presidential election, all 12 voters said no.

“There was not a single Trump voter who after watching that speech abandoned him and went for Hillary (Clinton),” Thau said. “And there were no Hillary voters who said I should have abandoned her and gone to him.”

Matthew Mielke of Washington, D.C., says President Trump spoke well, stayed on message and looked presidential during his State of the Union address Tuesday night but may have benefited from low expectations. “If he’s not foaming at the mouth and screaming, we say he did a good job,” Mielke said. (Photo: Michael Collins/USA TODAY)

The group also found Massachusetts Congressman Joe Kennedy III, who gave the Democratic response, equally unconvincing. Some described him as a fresh face but said they don’t know what he stands for.

The dozen voters who participated in the discussion were chosen because their allegiance has swung between the Democratic and Republican candidates in the last two presidential elections. Seven voted for Clinton in the 2016 election and Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 race. Five voted for Trump in 2016 and President Barack Obama four years earlier.

The group included seven men and five women, all of whom live in Maryland, Va. and Washington, D.C. Three were African-American, one was Latino and the rest were Caucasian.

 

Watch focus group members respond to parts of the State of the Union

 

KEYWORDS: STATE OF THE UNION, PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP