By Sylvie Haller and Ronnie Polidoro
In this presidential election the most important person is the one who still hasn't decided who to vote for. We found him. His name is George Manukas, a grandfather and an avid golfer. Why is he the most important person? Manukas is a registered Independent living in a key battleground state who voted for McCain in 2008. He’s undecided in 2012, but the candidate who gets his vote, and the votes of others like him, will likely win the election.
For our purposes we’ll call him the most important person in the election, M.I.P. for short.
M.I.P. and his wife of 40 years, Voula, live in Raleigh, N.C., a swing state swarming with campaign volunteers who are calling phones, knocking on doors, and ringing doorbells to lock in the support for their respective candidates.
“I’m on their speed dial,” M.I.P. told NBC's Harry Smith in an interview aired on Rock Center.
With a mailbox always full of political literature and a phone that keeps on ringing, M.I.P. likes to think he is the most important person in the country. He says he doesn’t read any of the political mail and he’s been trying to tune out the ads. So how can the campaigns reach the most important person in the presidential election? National Media's Will Feltus has an idea.
Feltus knows just about everything there is to know about Republicans, Democrats, and the people in between. As a research expert at National Media, one of the largest Republican communications planning and implementation agencies in the United States, Feltus and his staff dissected massive national surveys that asked people what they buy and how they vote. By knowing what beer you drink, where you go out to eat, what shows you watch, and what car you drive, Feltus and his staff can tell you what all of that says about your politics. With that valuable information campaigns can advertise during certain shows or use certain products to sway voters.
“Sam Adams is very Republican. We like to think that because Sam Adams was such a patriot and a foe of big government, maybe that’s why Republicans like to drink Sam Adams beer,” Feltus told Smith, adding: “Democrats like to drink vodka, rum, tequila.” And, with a chuckle, Feltus says, “Sauvignon Blanc would be a wine that would be very predictive of partisanship.”
Feltus can even pick out specific websites that Republicans and Democrats frequent.
“Republicans tend to be getting financial information, making travel reservations,” Feltus says, adding: “Democrats, unfortunately, are trying to get a job and a date.”
On television, shows and even entire networks such as “Dancing with the Stars,” “NCIS,” and The Weather Channel plot in the middle.
“We pretty much like everything between “Modern Family,” “Dancing with the Stars,” over to “NCIS,”” said M.I.P.
Based on the M.I.P.’s habits, looks like Will Feltus’ research is dead on.
“It makes a difference, but it only makes a difference in close elections. This kind of targeting gives the client that little edge, that little two or three point edge,” Feltus said.
More ads will continue to hit the digital airwaves, the phones will keep on ringing, and most of it will be targeted at our Most Important Person and other voters like him.
“[They] know how I’m going to vote before I do,” M.I.P. said.
As Election Day approaches, it will be harder for Manukas to tune out the ads. The only factor he cannot tune out is his wife, who is voting for President Barack Obama and who can wield more influence than any ad or political argument.
“Sometimes, when we’re in the car or watching TV, an ad comes on and I will throw something at [M.I.P.],” Voula said, adding that she’ll continue to coax the most important person in her life to her side.
For now M.I.P. is still up in the air.