Undecided Columbia voters face challenge

Three Columbia residents prepare to cast their first presidential ballots, but they have only a month to make their choice.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008 | 10:13 p.m. CDT; updated 11:28 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Keith Clark poses for a portrait with his children (left) Daunte, 3, and Kumani, 6 months, on Sept. 30 at his house in Columbia. Clark is undecided as to whom he will vote for in this year's presidential election. His two main concerns are his children and the economy. He wants to know what each candidate can guarantee for his children's future.

With barely more than a month to go before the nation chooses its next president, many Americans already have decided which candidate will get their support when they go to the polls on Nov. 4.


The Missourian will follow three undecided voters through the remainder of the presidential campaign, right up to Election Day on Nov. 4. To read blog posts from them and the reporters covering them, visit our Picking a President blog at

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And then there are those who haven't. An Associated Press-Yahoo poll conducted Sept. 24 showed that 18 percent of prospective voters are either undecided or are willing to change their minds before Election Day. Gallup Daily Poll Tracking during September showed that percentage much lower, fluctuating between 6 percent and 8 percent.
But in an election in which the two major-party candidates are in a virtual dead heat, even a small percentage of swing voters has the potential to alter the outcome.

It’s clear that Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama will be working hard during the next few weeks to win those people over.
But what will it take to do that? Where will those voters get their information? And what issues are most important to them?

To find out, the Missourian recruited three undecided Columbia voters — Miguel Lopez, Keith Clark and Amy Davis — willing to let us watch and learn from them over the frenetic final weeks of the campaign season. We’ll check in with them from time to time to see what they’re reading, what they’re hearing and what they’re thinking. Keep reading to learn more about who they are.

Keith Clark: 'Show me something'

Keith Clark, 37, is a former boxer from New York who is now a stay-at-home dad in Columbia. He’s never voted before, and he’s still waiting for the candidates to prove they stand for something. To Keith, actions speak  louder than words, and so far, he said, he’s seen nothing but talk.

“Show me something,” Keith said. “Show me you can be a president who stays by his word and not have Congress tell you what to do.”
Keith isn’t sold on McCain because he sees him as a puppet of the Republican Party and a potential continuation of the Bush administration. And he thinks Obama is unnecessarily playing the race card.

“By no means is this a black-or-white issue,” Keith said. “I’m married to a white woman, and I have mulatto kids, so I’m not jumping on the bandwagon of Obama because he’s black. And I’m definitely not jumping on the stereotype that a white man can do it all.”
Keith has paid more attention to the issues since starting a family, which includes a 3-year-old son and a 6-month old daughter. He wants to know where the candidates stand on education and health care, especially since his parents have grown older.

Keith said he is sensitive to the needs of veterans and of the troops overseas, and he thinks immigration is a major issue.
Keith is looking to choose a candidate who can “talk the talk and walk the walk.” So far, he said, neither McCain nor Obama has impressed him.

“When they can show me something different,” Keith said, “that’s when I’ll make my decision.”

Miguel Lopez: 'I need change, I want change'

Miguel Lopez’s brand new citizenship in the United States didn’t come packaged with allegiance to a political party. His six-year history here has produced neither love nor hatred for Democrats or Republicans. He has no family history with U.S. politics to lean on.

Still, Miguel, 37, must decide who will get his support for president in November by reading newspapers, watching debates and weighing the issues. He wants a president who will bring about change, especially considering the status of the economy.

Miguel said that no single person or party can be blamed for the mess, but that he believes a lot of bad decisions have been made. We need a president who can make good decisions, he said.
“I need change, I want change, you know,” he said. “I don’t want more Bush.”

Miguel said he doesn’t think McCain is the same as George W. Bush, but Bush casts a shadow that McCain is going to have to shake.
Miguel spoke knowledgeably about issues he considers important: the economy, the war in Iraq and immigration policy. He listens carefully for what candidates say they will do for Latinos in the United States, a group he hopes to support with his vote.
“I want to help these people,” he said. “I think, with my vote, probably I can help them.”

Miguel sees politics here through the eyes of someone who grew up in Argentina, a country he described as much more passionate and much more corrupt than the United States. Party leaders there will pay citizens to show support by playing big drums or blowing air horns during a speech, and they’ll pay for votes as well.  

Miguel sees the need for change in his own country as well as in the United States. Argentina may be more corrupt, but what happens in the United States affects everybody around the world, he said. That’s why he’ll think carefully before he casts his first American ballot.

Amy Davis: '“I hope I can make a good enough decision that I'm not going to regret'

MU freshman journalism student Amy Davis, 18, will vote for the first time in the presidential election on Nov. 4. Even though she grew up in Oklahoma City, Amy decided to register in Columbia because of Missouri's history of being a swing state.
She wants her first vote to count.

“I just think that it actually does truly matter, and that one person's vote really can make a difference,” Amy said.
Amy became more interested in politics after coming to Columbia and becoming old enough to cast a ballot. She was apolitical throughout most of her life but stayed involved in the community during high school.

At MU, Amy is a member of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority and enjoys the philanthropy work it’s doing this semester.
Amy said she believes that this year’s election is really important and that she should stay involved so she can make an informed decision. She’s also found a split between the political philosophies of her friends here and her family back home.

“I think that's … another reason why I'm undecided (is) because I've kinda grown up with a Republican background all my life, and then now I'm finally getting to see the other side of it," Amy said.

Amy said that her parents have consistently voted Republican in elections and that her new friends and roommate have Democratic views. She discusses the issues with all of them, and she watches the news and reads the paper to stay up to date on the candidates and their views.

Amy said her goal throughout the election season has been to become an informed voter.

“I hope I can make a good enough decision that I'm not going to regret," Amy said. “It's always disappointing if you vote for someone that doesn't act in the way you were hoping in office.”

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John Schultz October 1, 2008 | 1:01 a.m.

And here's another option for the three undecided voters in the article (and others reading this) - Bob Barr, the Libertarian nominee.

Congressman Barr opposes the Wall Street bailout and looks to reduce the size, scope, and power of the federal government, something neither Senators McCain or Obama offer.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 1, 2008 | 5:04 a.m.

Why Barr? We have heard nor seen this guy on any TV Ads nor really seen any big stance on any issues at all.

The point of this election is not voting for people it is voting on the real issues that are needed to get and keep this country on track.

As I said on another forum if you are not looking at and researching the issues important to you as a voter and voting on those issues you need your head checked.

This is not about personalities,race,time in office,war records,age,gender or any such thing at all nor ever should be but this is about principles.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking October 1, 2008 | 9:11 a.m.

Well, Barr's website lists his views on various issues just like the other candidates do. Did you look at any of them?


(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 1, 2008 | 10:35 a.m.

Yes I did Mark and I do not like in any way shape or form his views on what he refers to as Government run Welfare Programs or how he would so called "reform them".

(Report Comment)
John Schultz October 1, 2008 | 11:30 a.m.

Chuck, Barr is pushing several ideas that neither McCain or Obama want to touch or are out of touch with the general public. Both major candidates support the Wall Street bailout, Barr opposes it. Barr wants to cut government spending and taxes, McCain and Obama want to increase spending to record levels. Barr opposes the USA PATRIOT Act, the FISA extension, and other programs that are in conflict with the Fourth Amendment. Barr is a member (or was recently) of the NRA board of directors and is a much stronger gun rights proponent than either Obama or McCain.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 1, 2008 | 11:45 a.m.

As I said on this site and on others the two main issues I am interested in that not only concern myself and over 37 million others Barr nor McCain are for or want to be for and in fact want to cut radically or totally change for the worse.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking October 1, 2008 | 12:39 p.m.

Even if the cuts free private charities and enterprises to pick up the slack in social programs? Remeber, having wageearners keep more of their own money means more of them might feel more charitable.


(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 1, 2008 | 3:30 p.m.

As I said on another local forum board and the question was not answered: What if those private entities fail or fold? Then what. That is the point if putting Medicare,Medicaid and SSI/SSD into the private market you get no guarantee what so ever against failure and that is just not acceptable.
It might be acceptable to you being you are not on Medicaid,Medicare or SSI/SSD but to myself and others like myself it is not acceptable at all.
We paid in our money and we should be able to have the say how it is managed. That is what Barr and McCain do not offer in their policies.

(Report Comment)
James Smith October 2, 2008 | 1:22 a.m.

You call Social Security well managed? As a private entity the social security would be a lot better managed. How many times have democrats and republicans dipped their hands into the SS to fund other government projects? I would be a lot better off if I could invest the money myself. Being so young I will probably never see SS benefits.

I am a firm believer that after school programs like Boys and Girls Club, YMCA, Big Brothers, Scouts does a much better job with social services then the government run programs. All of which have a great storied history of serving tomorrows leaders today.

Less government control all around in government, social services, health care, taxes, etc.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 2, 2008 | 5:02 a.m.

One more time John Fabsits:

As I said on another local forum board and the question was not answered and you did not answer it here either:

What if those private entities fail or fold? Then what. That is the point if putting Medicare,Medicaid and SSI/SSD into the private market you get NO GUARANTEE WHAT SO EVER against failure and that is just not acceptable.

This is not about your future funds this is about over 37 million Americans who are on SSI/SSD now that depend on it being secure. If you want to invest your money go look into IRA,stocks and others things that will give you better returns over time. Do not though expect though over 37 million Americans already on SSI/SSD to have to worry in the future if they will be able to eat,pay rent,pay their bills,pay their doctor and numerous other things.
Thinking like that is just self serving and in general just plain selfish in nature.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking October 2, 2008 | 8:53 a.m.

WHat type of SSI are these 37 million Americans on? That's one in eight! Retirement? Disability?

What some people want to be able to do is opt out of the social security system. They feel they can invest the 7.7% the gov't takes out, a lot better than the government can. Remember, the government doesn't invest any of it - they simply use the SS taxes coming in to fund the programs outlays.

Say we make a transition - over the next 20 years, we let people invest an increasing amount of their SS tax (or spend it if they want - more fool them). We similarly increase deductions and tax credits for giving to organizations that help low-income and disabled people.

In such a future, I'd imagine you could buy income insurance (like mortgage or credit insurance now) that would compensate you until a new source of income came up.

This would offer more incentives for people to save and invest for the future, decrease the size of government, increase the efficiency of charitable programs, and make it harder for those who abuse the system to continue to do so. It would also get the politics out of these programs.

Democrats love these programs, because they have 37 million voters lined up by promising them more and more. Trouble is, there's only so much more that can be done without neglecting other, vital programs.


(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 2, 2008 | 10:22 a.m.

First off there are actually three forms of Social Security. 1: Social Security Disability(those who can still work part time while trying to live with debilitating illness or physical issues). 2: Social Security Income(for those disabled from birth,who have never worked or through debilitating illness cannot work). 3: Social Security Retirement(you can apply for once you reach 65).

The first two are often bundled together.

The statistics show there are over 37 million in the first to categories and another number I saw puts it close to 54 million across all three categories and most all of those vote so yes they do have a say in where tax dollars are going.

You still FAIL TO ANSWER MY QUESTION of what happens when privatized companies fail and where would that leave those 37 million disabled citizens?

You also FAIL to miss my other point I made about they can invest themselves in any number of stock related options and usually get that better deal as you say.Reads below why privatizing would not work anyway if implemented.

The problem with this latter fact I present is modern Americana's ideas of keeping up with the Jones' and having to have all of the latest this or that or bigger by far which does not allow our society to be able to save as you suggest due to their own mentality of spend,spend and spend some more all the while not being able to pay for what they want thus over taxing their own credit,causing higher interest rates from lenders and so much more until as you now know we have this stupid "Bail Out Rescue Bill" that is going to cost all American Tax Payers over $700 Billion. So it would not matter if you privatized it or not as the average American mentality is to keep spending the more they have in their pockets anyway.

If our society as a whole did not over spend themselves and our country into oblivion there would be plenty to go around and some left over.

The last Democratic President left us with a Surplus in the coffers while this Republican President spent us into a Deficit that is predicted to take 10-20 years to recover from.

Is that fair to the American Tax Payers? Alot of Americans do not think so.

Vote on the issues presented to you as a voter not on people,race,age,time in office or anything else. The issues presented are what must be looked at to bring America back to the point we were at long ago.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking October 2, 2008 | 11:20 a.m.

I did answer your question - I apologize if it wasn't clear.

Upon being qualified to receive benefits from a private charity, a part of those benefits could be used to purchase private insurance that, in case of failure of the charity, would assure your income until other income could be found.

Have we overspent ourselves? Of course. Much of this crisis is due to lenders and borrowers disregarding the guidelines of prudent finance. This has little to do with who is President. Members of both parties joined in the party while it was good. Now it's over, and the hangover is severe. But it will pass if we just leave it alone.


(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 2, 2008 | 11:59 a.m.

What happens when private insurance companies go belly up? See Mark it is still the same mess. That is the point.

(Report Comment)

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