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Tales From The Trail: Who's Undecided And Why?



If you watched the presidential debate this past week, did you think, wait, are these people really undecided? Because they were all self-declared undecided voters, people who are weighing whether to vote Obama or Romney and haven't made up their mind. Now, there's a political scientist at UCLA who says undecideds make up about 4 percent of the American electorate.

We'll talk with her in a moment for our cover story today: the undecideds, do they exist, and can they swing this election? But first, let's go to NPR's Don Gonyea. He's fresh off 12 days on the campaign trail. Don, welcome back to Washington.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Glad to be here.

RAZ: OK. It's hard to believe. Just two weeks - just a little more than two weeks left before Election Day. And this is really going to come down to, like, voters in Ohio or in Virginia.

GONYEA: It may very well be Ohio, but Virginia and Iowa and Florida and Colorado, these are the states we're all, kind of, really focusing in on. And guess what, the candidates are focusing in on them as well. It's where all the money's being spent. It's where we're going to see them spending all their time from here on out.

RAZ: Lots of money, lots of television ads going up in those places. Even New Hampshire is becoming, once again, important. New Hampshire's important in January. Now, once again, it's important in November.

GONYEA: New Hampshire and Iowa are really getting a chance to be part of the general election show. And I can't say they're enjoying it because it comes with all sorts of attention and ads and mailers in your mailbox and people knocking on your door and reporters like me walking up to you in the diner and saying, hey, what do you think?

RAZ: Yeah. You are a nice guy. So if anyone is listening, you should talk to Don.

GONYEA: That's right.

RAZ: Don, I want to talk about undecided voters because the last debate, of course, was full of self-declared undecided voters. On your travels, on the campaign trails, have you met many truly undecided voters?

GONYEA: I have come across undecided voters. I was at that Bruce Springsteen, Bill Clinton rally in Parma, Ohio, this week. Oh, there's Ohio again, right? And I talked to a guy - and you assume it's all the faithful there to see the Bruce and Bill show. And this guy said, I voted for Obama last time. I'm leaning Obama, but I'm undecided. And I'm going, how can that be? Why are you here?

And he says, well, to see Bruce Springsteen. But he also said - I mean, he was clearly somebody who wasn't an ideologue. So all of those things that we think of that separate these candidates that make them so different, the undecided voters I talked to aren't really looking at all of those things. They may have voted for President Obama. They want the economy to get better. They maybe see it improving, but they're not ready to write off Governor Romney's plans yet.

And they don't have to make up their mind yet, so they're still trying to sort it out. They're people who are legitimately looking for the person who will help the economy. That's what I'm finding out.

RAZ: That's NPR's Don Gonyea fresh off two weeks on the campaign trail, and he will be back on it. Don, thanks.

GONYEA: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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