Jell-O, Steel, Play-Doh: What voters think 2016 candidates are made of

At one of this sessions during this week’s Wall Street Journal CEO Council meeting, Peter D. Hart described a focus group he did recently in Ohio to go beyond the numbers that he provides for the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll to get a better handle on what Americans are thinking.

One tactic is to ask a focus group to describe presidential candidates as if they were members of one’s family. Here’s what he heard:

Donald Trump? “What they said to me is, ‘He’s the crazy uncle. He’s the drunk uncle. He’s the smart-alecky teenager.’ ”

How about Hillary Clinton? “She’s the stepmom, always having to prove herself, the hostess, always trying to serve.”

And Jeb Bush? “He’s a weird cousin. Or he’s the stepchild or younger brother.”

Ben Carson: “He’s a grandpa, sort of a sweet grandpa, or he’s the stepdad. We can’t connect with him.”

Then Mr. Hart, a Democrat who teams up with Republican pollster Bill McInturff for the WSJ/NBC News poll, plucked a question he has asked about candidates in previous campaigns: “What’s their backbone made of?”

“When I looked at Obama,” Mr. Hart said this week, “there was never a sense of strength. It was hard rubber.”

Here’s what he heard recently from the Ohio focus groups on 2016 candidates:

Mr. Trump: “Steel, iron, gold, artificial turf.”

Mrs. Clinton: “Steel, iron, titanium.”

Mr. Carson: “Wood, dinosaur bones.”

Mr. Bush: “Jell-O, yarn, Play-Doh, straw, marshmallow.”

Editor’s Note: this piece originally appeared on The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire.