WASHINGTON — They shrug at President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney. They're in no hurry to decide which one to support in the White House race. And they'll have a big say in determining who wins the White House.
One-quarter of U.S. voters are persuadable, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll, and both Obama and Romney will spend the next four months trying to convince these fickle, hard-to-reach individuals that only he has what it takes to fix an ailing nation.
It's a delicate task. These voters also hate pandering.
"I don't believe in nothing they say," says Carol Barber of Ashland, Ky., among the 27 percent of the electorate that hasn't determined whom to back or that doesn't have a strong preference about a candidate.
Like many uncommitted voters, the 66-year-old Barber isn't really paying attention to politics these days. She's largely focused on her husband, who just had a liver transplant, and the fact that she had to refinance her home to pay much of his health bill. "I just can't concentrate on it now," she says before adding, "If there were somebody running who knows what it's like to struggle, that would be different."
John Robinson, a 49-year-old general contractor from Santa Cruz, Calif., is paying a bit more attention, but is just as turned off by both candidates.
"I'm just bitter about everybody. They just keep talking and wavering," said Robinson, a conservative who backed the GOP nominee in 2008, Arizona Sen. John McCain, but is undecided between Obama and Romney. "There's nothing I can really say that's appealing about either one of them."
To be sure, many of the 1-in-4 voters who today say they are uncommitted will settle on a candidate by Election Day, Nov. 6.
Until then, Obama and Romney will spend huge amounts of time and money trying to win their votes, especially in the most competitive states that tend to swing between Republicans and Democrats each presidential election. Obama and Romney face the same hurdle, winning over wavering voters without alienating core supporters they need to canvass neighborhoods and staff telephone banks this fall to help make sure their backers actually vote.