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Campaign 2008: It’s “time for a change” says a focus group

C-Span viewers this weekend watched as 12 voters from the Baltimore area talked about the direction of the nation and what they wanted in  a presidential candidate. The two-hour program is the first in a series of focus groups to be conducted in advance of the 2008 election by Democratic pollster Peter Hart, on behalf of the Annenberg Public Policy Center.

When asked to describe in a word or phrase how things are going in America, the group members responded with these observations: “Rocky,” “disturbing,” “insecure,” as well as “a lot of annoyance” and a “lack of leadership.”

The most common theme among the voters – five Democrats, four Republicans and three independents – was the need for change. Close behind came complaints about a “lack of substance” among the candidates from both parties, and a concern that the campaign season has begun too early.

Sen. Barack Obama drew the most favorable responses among the focus group, but when asked who could best lead the country in uncertain times, the three Republican frontrunners – Sen. John McCain, former Gov. Mitt Romney and former mayor Rudolph Giuliani – were cited.

Pollster Hart asked the focus group for brief words of advice for the candidates. Among the offerings: “Be honest and keep me safe.” “Be a strong leader.” “Put the nation first.”

The news media, which came in for some hits from the panel members for being “too liberal” and “biased,” reported on the focus group’s findings, including articles in the Baltimore Sun, Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

The New York Times article