‘Mitt Romney is the definition of an empty suit’
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Continuing on their journey through swing states, FRANCE 24’s Jon Frosch and Julien Peyron talk to some of the voters in Virginia, a state that could be critical in the 2012 race to the White House.
‘I don’t think Obama deserves another day’
Michael Haltigan and his wife Robyn, both 49, consider themselves typical middle-class Americans. They live in mountainous western Virginia, where he works in asbestos removal and she’s a dialysis nurse.
Both voted for Barack Obama in 2008. Michael admitted that as a lifelong Republican, he was ready for a change. Now he’s ready for a change again.
“I don’t think Obama deserves another day,” he vented. “Look at the deficit. Look at the debt. I don’t want to leave all that for my daughter.” Michael will vote for Romney.
Robyn, however, is one of the undecided voters both candidates are vying for in the final hours before Election Day. “I just don’t think Obama’s had enough time to do what he needs to. Part of me wants to give him another chance,” she said. “And Romney changes his mind so much.”
“That shows he’s willing to evolve,” Michael interjected.
“Or to say anything to get elected,” was Robyn's response.
Michael continued his case against the president: “You can’t keep everyone on welfare.”
His wife counterargued: “Some welfare is necessary.”
One thing both agree on is that, as Robyn said, “a woman should have the right to choose and to have birth control”.
“I’ll probably vote Obama again,” she concluded.
“I’ve got two days to convince her,” Michael joked.
‘Who am I to say Jenny down the street can’t get an abortion?’
33-year-old school psychologist Anna Tush lives with her husband Andrew, a banker, in Arlington, Virginia, a well-off suburb of Washington. They have a comfortable brick home, a two-year old son, and another baby on the way.
“We listen to NPR, we watch PBS. We’re total liberal yuppies,” she joked.
Tush and her husband voted for Obama in 2008, and will do so again. “I’m still definitely for Obama,” she said. “But I don’t know if you can be an Obama supporter and not be a little disappointed.”
Tush noted that “he did some great things”, citing healthcare reform. “Even with that, though, he wasn’t well prepared for the Republican backlash.”
Still, she wouldn’t even think of voting for Romney. “I work in public education, and when Republicans are in office, we don’t have money for programmes we need,” she said.
Social issues are also important for Tush. A self-described “guilty Catholic”, she admits she could never have an abortion. But as a woman whose second pregnancy has been “very complicated”, she considers reproductive health a private issue. “Who am I to say that Jenny down the street can’t have an abortion?” she shook her head.
“Obama’s done a good job,” she concluded. “Could he have done better? Probably. But it’s not enough for me to say I don’t like him anymore.”
‘I’m better off today than four years ago’
Cherise Drummond, 23, works as a waitress at breakfast chain Waffle House. But she has other ambitions: the single mother of a 3-year-old son is enrolled in online criminal justice classes, and hopes to attend law school one day.
In the meantime, Drummond, who is from Petersburg, Virginia, is focused on making ends meet. As a minimum wage earner, she is covered by government-funded health plan Medicaid and receives food stamps. On Tuesday, she will vote for Obama, because she feels he cares more about people like her. “Romney’s going to take it all away,” she said. “We depend on those benefits.”
Drummond thinks Obama deserves credit for the work he’s done. “He’s been trying to accomplish a lot, putting more jobs out there and helping people who need help,” she said. “I personally am better off today than four years ago. I have better coverage, and my son gets what he needs."
Drummond, who has a tattoo of her son’s nickname, “Lil Meme”, on her arm, considers the president a role model. “I’m proud a black man is in the White House,” she offered. “As an African-American, I feel we’ve accomplished the main thing.”
When asked where she sees herself in ten years, Drummond answered that she hoped to be living in a house she bought herself – “as far away from Virginia as possible”.
‘Obama wants to cut military spending, and that’s not smart’
Chris Stefanucci, a 29-year-old Afghanistan and Iraq war veteran, thinks Obama has “done great things” as commander-in-chief: “Pulling out of Iraq and winding down Afghanistan were good moves,” said the former attack helicopter crew chief, who now lives in Williamsburg, Virginia, with his wife and new-born baby girl. “I support his use of drones in Pakistan. And he made the call to get bin Laden, and do it in a certain way.”
But Stefanucci will be casting a ballot for Romney on Tuesday. “I’m a moderate Republican,” he explained, adding that he is mainly voting against Obama. “He took over a bad economy, but made it worse. And I don’t agree with raising taxes on the upper class; people shouldn’t be penalised for being successful.”
Stefanucci also says that as a veteran, he naturally supports Republicans. “Obama wants to cut military spending, and that’s not smart,” he noted.
The avowed history buff, who suffered from anxiety and depression upon returning to civilian life, nevertheless struck a measured tone when assessing the US military’s role in the world. “We’re a global superpower, but we shouldn’t be the world’s police,” he said.
Stefanucci added that he is not in favour of an intervention in conflict-torn Syria “unless there’s a coalition with European allies”.
‘Romney is the definition of an empty suit’
Clevester Logan, 49, has spent his whole life in Charlottesville, Virginia. A radio announcer and entrepreneur who also works part-time at a music store, Logan knows this friendly southern town (home to the University of Virginia), and the state at large, like the back of his hand. And he has been struck by how things have changed.
“Obama was the first Democrat to win Virginia since 1964,” he reflected, as his wife prepared dinner and their children watched TV in the next room. “The younger generation has transformed this state. They’ve seen and experienced so much more: interracial relationships, immigration, new ideas. And they’ve opened the minds of some of the older generation, too.”
A faithful Democrat, Logan now regularly sees Obama stickers on cars driven by people he would never peg as Obama supporters. “Obama has been able to break down some of those stereotypes,” he said. “And that’s a good thing.”
Logan is also encouraged by improvement in the economy. “It may have only moved a little, but it was so far in the hole that any movement is good,” he assessed. “We have to keep going.”
As for Mitt Romney, Logan is not impressed. “Bush was a buffoon, but at least he was a real person,” Logan said. “Romney is the definition of an empty suit.”