For Ana Phillips-Ferguson, grabbing a grocery cart is like grabbing the microphone in her one act play.
"These are 93 cents, what's the difference between this one and the 88 cents ones?" she murmurs to herself.
She launches into an audible running monologue about not just pinching, but putting the penny in a veritable vice grip.
"It's only a ten cent difference, but 10 cents matters right now, ten cents matters because that is more food I can buy for my kids. That's more snacks, that's more, ya know, stuff. You know what I mean?"
The mother of two swerves her cart through the grocery store with a laser focus; armed with a strict budget and a list looking for the most nutritional bang for her precious buck.
Cheaper is better, but don’t let her hear you use that word, "Inexpensive Mr. Kuebler, cheap is a quality, inexpensive is a price," she retorts.
“I have to stick with the list. [Do you every stray from the list at all?] If I go off the list I end up paying more money. I have a budget. I can't go over the budget."
It is the delicate game more and more mothers and wives are playing, but doing so on the ever changing dimensions of a muddy economic field.
They are in control of the family budget, raising children and often balancing a full or part-time job the modern American mother is pulling, tugging and stretching those ends so they meet.
[How tough is it to keep within a budget in these times?] It's almost impossible. Especially with gas prices being what they are, it is virtually impossible. Prices for food keep going up. I have to figure out where I can get milk at a decent price versus where I can get eggs at a decent price and then you sit down and try to figure it out that way," said Ana.
Chances are if you're a mom, raising a family on a budget and in this economy, Ana's story is old hat; what's new is what they are calling this group these days: ‘Walmart Moms,’ think of them as the new soccer moms, a large group of swing voters that are the prize and the target of the 2012 election.
"I think it is going to be real important. I think they are going to be a key group."
Margie Omero is the president of Momentum Analysis in Washington, a polling and public opinion firm who along with a republican counterpart put together this bi-partisan survey.
Walmart sponsored the poll hence the name of the group but they are defined by mothers who have children under 18 at home, have recently shopped in a Walmart or store like it and handle the day to day finances of their family.
"For a lot of these moms in particular, they are on the front lines of what is going on in the national economy, whether or not they can pay their mortgage, whether they can afford health care. A lot of these things are really pivotal and central to what these moms are dealing with," Omero says.
Therefore, this group is more loyal to the pocketbook than their political affiliation making ‘Walmart Moms’ like Ana key swing voters on 2012.
[You voted for President Barack Obama in 2008?] “I did vote for Obama in 2008,” Ana responded, [You went Republican in 2010?] “Yes I did.” [And now 2012, you don't know yet?] “Oh God yes, I don't know who to vote for."
It is a decision she and others in this group will typically wait until the fall to make, all the while paying ancillary attention to which candidate means more to their paycheck.
"I am definitely looking at the election cycle through that prism. I'm looking for a leader who knows how to lead. Who can make the difficult decisions and say, you know what we have to cut this in order to make a better tomorrow. I feel like if I have to budget and come under budget, why can't my state elected officials do the same exact same thing that I do," Ana said.
Counting dollars now to make sense of the choice she and other ‘Walmart Moms’ do have in November.
‘Walmart Moms’ will continue to be polled up through the election.
Pollsters say the feedback they are getting from this group now reflects an uncertainty about today's economy, they would like to see more urgency on part of the candidates to fix it and are also concerned about saving for their children’s college education.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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