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What kind of car is Obama?

April 12, 2012: 1:17 PM ET

These two are probably not the future stars of Cars 3.

If President Obama was a car, what kind of car would he be and why?

That's the question Resurgent Republic, a conservative polling and advocacy group, asked independent voters in Virginia and Colorado recently. The focus group members all voted for Obama in 2008, but are undecided heading into this year's general election.

The answers, to say the least, varied.

One voter said Obama is most like a Yugo. Yes, the subcompact build by Zastava in Serbia and imported to the U.S. in the 1980s. "All flash and no dash," the voter said.

Another likened Obama to the Chevrolet Corvair. That product of Detroit was named the Motor Trend car of the year in 1960, and was even put on the cover of TIME magazine. But it was also featured in Ralph Nader's auto expose "Unsafe at Any Speed." The voter didn't mean it as a compliment, saying Obama is like a Corvair because "it just doesn't last that long."

Another negative: Obama as an Edsel, which "might have a good engine underneath" but is "out of touch with reality."

But hey, it's not all bad news for the White House. After all, nobody said Obama was like the Ford Pinto -- an automotive punchline synonymous with disaster. And there were many genuinely positive reviews. One Colorado voter chose a Volvo because they are "really safe" and Obama "thinks things through." Another chose the Ford Taurus, a "reliable car that you see a lot." (Check all the answers by clicking the expandable graphic to the right.)

Underscoring just how divided the electorate is, another voter specifically said Obama is not like a Yugo, and that something more functional and solid is a more appropriate choice.

As entertaining as it is to think about the president in anthropomorphic terms, was this exercise useful?

Glen Bolger and Haley Barbour, two Republican heavyweights, say yes. The focus groups, and specifically the car question, provide "fascinating insight as to the President's standing among these voters," according to a memo from the pair.

"Voters who still approve of President Obama do not perceive him as a risky choice, but on the other spectrum, voters who disapprove believe he hasn't delivered and question whether he can change course moving forward," Bolger and Barbour wrote.

The most useful part of the analysis is probably the reasoning provided by voters, and not the car choices themselves. Different cars draw different reactions depending on who you ask, after all. The Chevy Volt, for example, which one voter did liken Obama to, is beloved by environmentalists and derided by conservatives.

Another interesting question -- this being an election -- is what kind of car voters think Mitt Romney is. Now, Resurgent Republic didn't ask that question, but we do have some insight from the candidate himself. Romney's Secret Service code word, as reported by GQ, is "Javelin."

The candidates usually chose their own code words, leaving little doubt that Romney's pick is a reference to the American Motors Javelin, a burly muscle car produced by the same auto company Romney's father ran.

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About This Author
Charles Riley
Charles Riley
Reporter, CNNMoney

Charles Riley lives and works in Hong Kong, where he covers markets, economics and other high-impact stories across Asia. He previously worked for CNNMoney in New York and CNN in Washington. He tweets @CRrileyCNN

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