Focus group voters reveal disdain for Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump

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ALEXANDRIA, Va.— Bad news for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump: Undecided voters' disdain for both major-party presidential nominees seemingly knows no bounds. This helps to explain why the outcome of the presidential race remains up in the air. Undecided voters have trouble picturing either Democrat Clinton or Republican Trump as president, and are especially worried about each candidate's ability to serve as commander in chief.

All this was evident at a focus group of undecided voters in the key swing state of Virginia. Thirty of them gathered for a three-hour discussion conducted by Republican pollster Frank Luntz.

The commander in chief question may be the "make-or-break" issue of the campaign, Luntz said afterward in assessing the focus group, sponsored by AARP. Luntz said undecided voters tend to see the race as a matter of two bad options in Clinton vs. Trump. The pollster said the first general-election presidential debate on Sept. 26 could make all the difference.

"If the election is defined by whether you like or dislike Hillary Clinton, she loses," Luntz said. "If the election is defined by what you think of Donald Trump, he loses."

See Clinton on the campaign trail after her recent health scare:

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Hillary Clinton campaigning after pneumonia
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Hillary Clinton campaigning after pneumonia
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton gives a thumbs up as she boards her campaign plane in White Plains, New York, United States September 15, 2016, to resume her campaign schedule following a bout with pneumonia. REUTERS/Brian Snyder TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton boards her campaign plane in White Plains, New York, United States September 15, 2016, to resume her campaign schedule following a bout with pneumonia. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton pauses while speaking at a campaign rally in Greensboro, North Carolina, United States, September 15, 2016, after she resumed her campaign schedule following a bout with pneumonia. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton pauses while speaking at a campaign rally in Greensboro, North Carolina, United States, September 15, 2016, after she resumed her campaign schedule following a bout with pneumonia. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton waves after speaking at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute's 39th Annual Gala Dinner in Washington, DC, U.S. September 15, 2016. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute's 39th Annual Gala Dinner in Washington, DC, U.S. September 15, 2016. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at the Black Women's Agenda Annual Symposium in Washington, U.S., September 16, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton waves as she boards her campaign plane in Washington, U.S., September 16, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton reacts as she receives the CBC Trailblazer Award during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's Phoenix Awards Dinner at the Washington convention center in Washington, U.S., September 17, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton speaks at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's Phoenix Awards Dinner in Washington, U.S., September 17, 2016. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks to the media before boarding her campaign plane at the Westchester County airport in White Plains, New York, U.S. September 19, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton talks to reporters about the explosion in Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, New York, as she arrives at the Westchester County airport in White Plains, U.S., September 17, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton attends a bilateral meeting with Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (R) at a hotel in New York, U.S. September 19, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton meets with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a hotel in New York, U.S. September 19, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton attends a bilateral meeting with Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko (R) at a hotel in New York, U.S. September 19, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
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Luntz started the session Friday night by asking participants to describe Clinton and Trump in one word. The replies, spoken out loud by the participants one by one, were overwhelmingly negative. Clinton was described as untrustworthy, slimy, a liar, corrupt, crooked and willing to say or do anything to win the presidency. Trump was described as arrogant, unbalanced, crazy, phony, a bigot, a buffoon and garbage.

Twelve of the 30 said they would consider voting for Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson in the general election although their commitments to him seemed shaky.

The participants appeared to be relatively well-informed on issues. Given a long list of quotes or actions by Clinton and Trump, and asked what bothered them most about each item, most were very troubled by Clinton's saying she has never lied to the country, apparently because that statement itself was seen as a lie. The voters were also bothered by the fact that Clinton used a private email server when she was secretary of state, which suggested to participants that she was trying to hide something. Most were troubled by Trump's criticizing the Muslim parents of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq, and for saying former prisoner of war John McCain, now a GOP senator from Arizona, was not a hero during the Vietnam War.

Most of the voters also disliked the attacks that Clinton and Trump are using against each other. The voters in the focus group said they wanted more specifics on how the candidates would solve problems such as bolstering Social Security and improving the tax system.

Half of the focus-group participants said they had voted for President Barack Obama, a Democrat, at least once. The other half had never voted for Obama. Undecided voters represent about 7 to 10 percent of the electorate nationwide, according to various polls.

See Donald Trump and Mike Pence on the campaign trail:

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Donald Trump and Mike Pence on the campaign trail since the RNC
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Donald Trump and Mike Pence on the campaign trail since the RNC
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump arrives for a rally at Duplin County Events Center in Kenansville, North Carolina on September 20, 2016. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
ESTERO, FL - SEPTEMBER 19: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the Germain Arena on September 19, 2016 in Estero, Florida. Trump is locked in a tight race against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in Florida as the November 8th election nears. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the JetCenters of Colorado in Colorado Springs, Colorado on September 17, 2016. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 0534 -- Pictured: (l-r) Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump during an interview with host Jimmy Fallon on September 15, 2016 -- (Photo by: Andrew Lipovsky/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at the Bethel United Methedoist Church on September 14, 2016 in Flint, Michigan. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 13: U.S. Republican vice presidental nominee Gov. Mike Pence addresses a news conference with House GOP leaders following a conference at Republican headquaters on Capitol Hill September 13, 2016 in Washington, DC. When asked about former vice presidential candidate Speaker Paul Ryan's reluctance to endorse presidential candidate Donald Trump, Pence said that the House Republicans and the campaign agree on a plan for America. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Donald Trump, 2016 Republican presidential nominee, greets attendees after speaking at a campaign event in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016. Any path Trump might take to the presidency inevitably leads through the Rust Belt and industrial Midwest the places the Republican nominee describes as 'rusting and rotting' war zones of manufacturing decline. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 12: (L-R) Chairman and CEO of Cantor Fitzgerald, Howard Lutnick, US Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, and Executive Managing Director, North America for BGC, Daniel LaVecchia attend Annual Charity Day hosted by Cantor Fitzgerald, BGC and GFI at BGC Partners, INC on September 12, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Cantor Fitzgerald)
AKRON, OH - AUGUST 22: Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses supporters at the James A. Rhodes Arena on August 22, 2016 in Akron, Ohio. Trump currently trails Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in Ohio, a state which is critical to his election bid. (Photo by Angelo Merendino/Getty Images)
FREDERICKSBURG, VA - AUGUST 20: GOP nominee Donald Trump holds a rally in Fredricksburg, VA on August 20, 2016 in Fredericksburg, Virginia. (Photo by Leigh Vogel/WireImage)
US Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses supporters at the Summit Sports and Ice Complex on August 19, 2016 in Diamondale, Michigan. / AFP / JEFF KOWALSKY (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Donald Trump, 2016 Republican presidential nominee, pauses while speaking during a campaign rally at the Erie Insurance Arena in Erie, Pennsylvania, U.S., on Friday, Aug. 12, 2016. Two days after Trump said that President Barack Obama had founded Islamic State, and a day after he insisted that he meant what he said, the Republican presidential nominee reversed himself on Friday and claimed the statement was nothing more than sarcasm. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Donald Trump, 2016 Republican presidential nominee, speaks during a campaign rally at the Erie Insurance Arena in Erie, Pennsylvania, U.S., on Friday, Aug. 12, 2016. Two days after Trump said that President Barack Obama had founded Islamic State, and a day after he insisted that he meant what he said, the Republican presidential nominee reversed himself on Friday and claimed the statement was nothing more than sarcasm. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
SUNRISE, FL - AUGUST 10: Republican presidential candidate Donald J.Trump addresses the audience during a campaign event at BB&T Center on August 10th, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Johnny Louis/WireImage)
WILMINGTON, NC - AUGUST 9: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump shakes hands with supporters during a campaign event at Trask Coliseum on August 9, 2016 in Wilmington, North Carolina. This was TrumpÃs first visit to Southeastern North Carolina since he entered the presidential race. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
Donald Trump, 2016 Republican presidential nominee, is seen on a monitor speaking during an event to discuss his economic plans at the Detroit Economic Club in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., on Monday, Aug. 8, 2016. Trump is promising the biggest overhaul to the personal income-tax code since Ronald Reagan, as well as a deep cut in the corporate tax rate. He's also pledging to end excessive regulation and lift restrictions on the nation's energy producers. Photographer: Sean Proctor/Bloomberg via Getty Images
PORTLAND, ME - AUGUST 4: Presidential candidate Donald Trump shakes hands with Maine Gov. Paul LePage being introduced at a rally in Merrill Auditorium on Thursday, August 4, 2016. (Photo by Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
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SCRANTON, PA - JULY 27: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to a crowd of supporters on July 27, 2016 in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Trump spoke at the Lackawanna College Student Union Gymnasium. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
DORAL, FL - JULY 27: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds a press conference at Trump National Doral on July 27, 2016 in Doral, Florida. Trump spoke about the Democratic Convention and called on Russia to find Hillary Clinton's deleted e-mails. (Photo by Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images)
Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, waves to the crowd after addressing the 117th annual VFW National Convention at the Charlotte Convention Center on Tuesday, July 26, 2016. (David T. Foster III/Charlotte Observer/TNS via Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - JULY 26: Republican vice presidential candidate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence speaks as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump looks on at the 117th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States as veterans strive for a photo at the Charlotte Convention Center on July 26, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. One day after Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton faced the same group, Trump promised a revision to health care for veterans. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
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