SWING STATE SURPRISE: Voters Lose Interest in Clinton During Debate

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-10-56-28-amHillary, North Carolina was not impressed. Polls might say you won the debate but it’s easy to win when you aren’t being hounded with questions and actually talking like Trump was. It may have cost her some votes.

By David Lightman and Tim Funk

Kae Roberts and Jay Eardly were leaning toward Hillary Clinton before Monday night’s debate.

By the end, they had both pulled away.

John Kokos and Hank Federal were undecided going in, potential Clinton backers.

By the end, they’d ruled her out.

Indeed, while polls said that Clinton won the first general election debate with Donald Trump Monday, she may not have won actual votes. And she may even have lost some, at least in the battleground state of North Carolina.

In a focus group of 21 voters from around Charlotte conducted by McClatchy and the Charlotte Observer, four who were up for grabs before the debate moved away from her by the end.

The racially diverse group included seven Republicans, six Democrats, seven unaffiliated voters and one Libertarian. Their votes are crucial in one of the nation’s key swing states, one in which Trump and Clinton are neck-and-neck in the most recent polls. They live in or around a city rocked in recent days by turmoil over last week’s police shooting of an African-American man.

That the state is pivotal is clear. Clinton will campaign in Raleigh on Tuesday. Trump had planned to make a post-debate trip to Charlotte Tuesday but agreed to reschedule in the wake of the shooting and violence that taxed local authorities. He’s expected in the state soon.

The closeness of the race – even after a seeming Clinton win in the debate – was underscored in the hour-long discussion with voters after watching the debate at Queens University of Charlotte.

For the four who emerged less impressed by Clinton, it was the seeming familiarity of her proposals for the economy and national security that was a turnoff.

Roberts, who is unaffiliated with a party, wrote in her notes several times during the debate that Clinton offered “pie in the sky” ideas. By debate’s end, she had moved from leaning toward Clinton to undecided.

“The things she says she’s going to do, there’s no substance behind it,” Roberts said.

One potential winner in the focus group was Johnson, who benefited largely because so many voters were annoyed at both Trump and Clinton.

“I was looking for Hillary to convince me, but I’m not getting the Hillary I’m looking for,” particularly on taxes, said Eardly, an unaffiliated voter. By the end of the debate, he’d moved from Clinton to considering Johnson.

Kokos, who works in Hickory, said before the debate he was undecided. Afterwards, he ruled out Clinton and appeared open to either Johnson and Trump. “The things she said were out of an old playbook,” he said of Clinton.

Before the debate, the tally was nine Clinton, three Trump, six undecided and three Johnson. Afterward, it became seven Clinton, three Trump, six undecided and five Johnson.

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