Seattle Times Political Caucus
The Seattle Times Political Caucus is an online community aimed at adding diverse voices to our coverage of politics. How we'll use the Caucus will evolve over time. But the idea is to create a conversation with people of various backgrounds and political beliefs. As the election season unfolds, we'll ask participants to weigh in on key political questions and then post their comments here.
October 2, 2008 1:38 PM
Posted by Katherine Long
They say the 2008 presidential race will largely be decided by swing voters and independents.
With that in mind, we combed through the descriptions given by our 219 Seattle Times Political Caucus participants when they signed up for the caucus (most joined in early summer, when the political landscape looked different). We looked for people who defined themselves as independents, said they were uncommitted, or were otherwise unhappy with either of the candidates. We found 32 of them, and we asked:
If the election were held today, which candidate for president would get your vote, and why? How about governor? If you haven't made up your mind yet, what do you need to know to help you decide?
We got a small number of thoughtful, interesting replies, and the trend (within this microcosm of a group, at least) indicates that independents in our small sample are leaning toward Sen. Barack Obama -- even those who originally sided with Sen. John McCain. In the gubernatorial race, more independents prefer Dino Rossi over Gov. Christine Gregoire. We won't hold them to it, and we'll be sure to check back again; you can read all of their responses here.
"Since shortly after beginning his 2008 presidential campaign, McCain has either stifled, reversed, or otherwise abandoned most of the characteristics that I had previously admired," wrote Mike Matesky of Seattle. "The impression I get is that his campaign feels he already has 'Maverick' credibility with independents, so it's safe to pander to a social conservative base. McCain increasingly sounds like a typical, partisan Republican, which won't get me or most other independents to elect him."
Matesky was turned off by Sen. McCain's pick of Gov. Sarah Palin as running mate. He thinks Obama sounds reasonable and measured, and doesn't just repeat boilerplate soundbites.
"Frankly, I'm ready to have someone with brain power in the White House, regardless of whether he buys arugula at Whole Foods or iceberg lettuce at Safeway," Matesky ended.
Tim Perez of Seattle backed Sen. Hillary Clinton in the primary, and never thought Obama would get his vote. "After the DNC slighted the 18 million of us who voted for Clinton, I was certain I would be voting for John McCain. However, John picked the Mouth of Sauron or Sarah Palin as she's known in some parts. And there was no way in Hades that I could in good conscience aid in having someone so under qualified become VP. I've always been a huge Joe Biden fan so the choice became clear."
Benjamin Johnstone-Anderson of Tacoma was "itching to cast a ballot for the McCain of 2000. Aside from attacking ethanol, where's that McCain? I haven't seen him for months."
Instead, Johnstone-Anderson writes, "after a summer of leaning McCain, I find myself now intending to cast a vote for Senator Obama. While both candidates offer robust policy positions, McCain has lost me on theme. Case in point: I liked Governor Palin as a reformer in Alaska, but I'm not at all excited about Vice Presidential candidate Palin. I thought that the "campaign time-out" to address the financial crisis was a calculated and distracting ploy. Senator Obama hasn't been perfect, either, but "hope" and "change" aside, he's run a less cynical campaign."
Ted Noggles of Bothell is backing Obama because "McCain is still too similar to Bush and therefore too much of a status quo," and Louis Couwenberg of Seattle expects to vote for the Democrat "because I don't see voting for him as taking a risk anymore. Honestly how much worse can he do than what the Republican administration is giving us now?"
In Spokane, Chris Kelly, a Hillary supporter, was dismayed that McCain didn't pick a more qualified woman to be his running mate; he's leaning toward Obama at this point.
And Luther E. Franklin of Issaquah, a former Naval aviator, thought about not voting at all, then leaned toward McCain, but finds "his flip-flop behavior just before and during the current financial crisis reprehensible."
Benjamin Lukoff of Seattle gives Obama a lukewarm endorsement. "My opinion of McCain has really suffered this year," he wrote. "Again, I'm not a huge fan of either of them, but since it will be one of them I want to make sure it's the one I dislike less."
But not all of our independents agree. "McCain's federalist views are much more appealing than Obama's socialistic views," wrote Morgan Barney of Newcastle. "I think we need less federal government and more decision making at the local /state level. When it comes down to it, I trust McCain more to be the Maverick /Independent that he has always been than I trust Obama to move all the way to the center from the far left. I know that McCain will work with Democrats and Independents. Obama will only try to get others to work with his ideas."
Scott Kastelitz of Bothell was originally drawn to Obama, "but I've come to realize that hope is not a strategy, and that it takes real plans and real actions to accomplish things." McCain started to impress Kastelitz during the first debate's foreign policy portion, when "he showed that he not only understands the threats that face our nation, he was prepared with plans and courses of action. McCain will need to do more of this to keep my vote and Obama will need to start showing his vision is not just empty rhetoric in order to woo me to his side."
As far as the gubernatorial race goes, only a few of our participants weighed in with strong feelings. It's clear that the political ads are rubbing some of these independents the wrong way. "I hate the ads, I can't stand listening to the mis-information on both sides and I feel like spanking both of them," wrote Kelly, of Spokane, who is leaning toward Gov. Christine Gregoire.
Morgan Barney is also "disgusted by the negative ads. I have seen / heard more negative ads from Gregoire. This may be the deciding factor as neither of them are very up front in answering questions."
Kastelitz is a Dino Rossi fan. "From the beginning, I have never thought Gregoire was capable of being an effective leader for our state," he wrote. "And she’s done nothing to change my mind in the last four years."
Tim Perez "was a Dinocrat the first time and shall remain so this time around. CG isn't bad per say, again this is probably more of 'revenge' vote for the lack of class and concession when Rossi clearly won the first time around."
And finally, Ted Noggles expects to cast a vote for Rossi "primarily because I feel our state has been controlled by the liberal Democrats for way too long. Taxes, spending, and more taxes and more spending habits of the incumbents seems to me to be running out of control and without oversight. Let's get some control on our spending."
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