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How Did Voters React to the Debate?

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images(LAS VEGAS) -- A focus group of Walmart moms in Las Vegas, sponsored by Walmart and moderated by bi-partisan pollsters, revealed mixed reactions to each candidate in Wednesday night’s debate but a broad sense that Romney was the victor.

In a break-off group of non-Latina women afterwards, the general consensus in the room was that Romney won.  But even so, the women didn’t walk away seeing Romney in a very positive light.

When asked to describe their impressions of Romney, the women used words like “rude,” “pushy” and “assertive” -- and when asked to clarify if assertive was positive or negative, the woman who offered that description said it was negative.

The women’s impressions of Obama weren’t positive either.  Words used to describe the president included “defeated,” “backpedaling” and “speaking the same game.”

So what set Romney apart as the winner in these women’s minds?  Two things seemed to resonate: Romney’s history of reaching across the aisle in Massachusetts and the fact that these voters felt like they heard something new from him in terms of his plans, while Obama was telling them the same thing they’ve been hearing for four years.

“I liked that he worked with Democrats and Republicans in his state,” one woman said about Romney, eliciting agreement from among the rest of the room’s 13 women.

“I felt more comfortable with him because at least he has attempted to work across the aisle,” said another woman.  “I’ve not seen that from Obama.”

During the debate, the focus group reacted positively to both Romney and Obama.

Dials signaling approval moved when the candidates talked about helping the middle class, and consistently fell back when candidates switched from talking about their own plans and went into attacking their opponent.

One issue that resonated a lot with these women, it appeared, was education.  During the debate, when both Romney and Obama talked about education, the dials indicated a positive reaction.  But in the focus group afterwards, when asked who was better on the topic of education, the general response in the room was that both men were equal on the topic.

There was one line from Romney on the topic that seemed to stand out, though.  Two different women reiterated Romney’s line to Obama about spending money on green jobs that could have hired teachers: “You put $90 billion into green jobs.  And I -- look, I’m all in favor of green energy.  $90 billion, that would have hired two million teachers.  $90 billion.”

Several women expressed disappointment that abortion rights were not brought up, saying that they would have liked to hear the candidates talk about that issue in their own words, since they mostly just hear small snippets in commercials.

As for the question of interest level: All of the women said they would have stayed tuned through the whole debate even if they weren’t in the focus group.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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