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Thursday, August 9, 2012

10 Questions for an Undecided Voter in Ohio


In the tight race for the White House, President Obama and Mitt Romney are spending millions of dollars to reach America's small slice of undecided voters - people like Rosemary Pallen of northeast Ohio.

Ms. Pallen, a 62-year-old mother of two grown children, manages her husband's dental office and worries about the stagnant economy. “In our business, we're seeing more and more people on Medicaid - the middle class,” she said. “They're hurting. Kids are coming out of school with $200,000 in loans. They can't buy a house, they can't buy a car. Gas prices at $4? We can't go anywhere.”

Once a Democrat, then a Republican and now an independent, Ms. Pallen has grown increasingly disaffected from politics, which makes her a tough sell for the campaigns trying to court her. John Harwood of The Times and CNBC interviewed her at a suburban shopping center in Wadsworth, about 40 miles south of Cleveland. The follow ing is a condensed, edited transcript of their conversation.

How much attention are you paying to the presidential race right now?

If it's on, I listen. Mostly I turn it off.

You don't seek out information, or try to watch the TV ads?

Oh no. They absolutely get muted.

Are you starting to get bombarded, in addition to the ads, with mail and phone calls from the campaigns?

Phone calls - totally hanging up on those people, too. Annoying. Very annoying.

Have you followed the back-and-forth between the two campaigns over Romney's statements on his foreign trip, or Obama's statements like “the private sector's doing fine?”

I heard some of it but I don't even recall what it was about. Kids in a playground having a little fight and a little tiff. Just throwing out names saying ‘You did this.' ‘You did that.' You don't know what the truth is.

Do you see big philosophical difference s between Obama and Romney, and what difference might it make in your life?

They're on their own agendas. Romney's going to push through for big business. I'm not sure what Obama's doing.

I don't see either party giving me any benefits whatsoever in my life, because there's such a deadlock. They're equally to blame. You've got Congress and the Senate and the Republicans and the Democrats - they're not going to meet in the middle. They don't care about the middle-class person. They've got all the lobbyists in their back pocket. We elect them, but they don't listen to us.

You've got a House race in this district between two incumbents thrown together in redistricting - the Republican Jim Renacci, and the Democrat, Betty Sutton. How does that feel to you?

I don't know anything about either one of them. I have no opinion.

There's been a lot of talk that Romney might pick Rob Portman, the senator from Ohio, as his running mate. What do you think of Portman?

Don't know anything about Rob Portman. Doesn't do anything to my vote. He's up there and there's like two or three others - I couldn't tell you their names. I think (Romney) should choose a woman.

Will you watch both parties' conventions?

Absolutely not.

What about the debates - will you watch those?

Yes. Just to see how they react, how they take the pressure of the questions. And mostly for the fighting with each other - to prove a point that they're not going to work together.

When do you think there will be a point in the election when you do tune in?

Maybe until a day or two before - when I might have to make a decision, if I decide to make a decision.