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Reporting From Ohio

Before visiting family in Ohio this week, I'd assumed this swing state & mdash;a battleground for Democrats and Republicans & mdash;would be a hothouse of political conversation. After hanging out with native and transplanted Ohioans kind enough to offer me a piece of their minds (with some coaxing and humor), only a few times did conversation turn to national politics.

Here's what I'm coming away with:

  • Nobody's really thrilled with either candidate, and have very specific problems with voting for either party's representative. & For instance, the word & ldquo;entitlement & rdquo; was offered when discussing Obama's ideas for the country. & The gist of the conversation concerned taxpayers paying for what others hadn't earned. & This disdain for entitlement will keep people away from Obama in November, even when voting for McCain isn't much of a palatable option. & (This seems like a mainstream opinion to me and not one relegated to just Ohioans. & The undecided vote at this point & mdash;including in our family an Army couple of two twenty-somethings and their little boy & mdash;may not vote at all rather than hold their noses and comply with an amorphous civic duty.)
  • Of those who have already decided on a major party candidate, many proudly display their choice with lawn signs and bumper stickers. & Most people who display a preference for president also have several other yard signs for local candidates. &
  • In small towns like Xenia, Ohio neither Joe Six Packs nor Joe Plumbers are, in fact, obsessed with either their guns or their religion. In the unscientific poll I conducted of the working middle class people living here, there is a certain pride and confidence from attending both Sunday school and keeping a Smith and Wesson (or its general equivalent). & But that pride is a far cry from being small town & ldquo;hicks & rdquo; that can't think or make decisions apart from prevailing community values.
  • Illegal immigration is more than a fleeting thought, even in trying economic times in a state not bordering Mexico. & An ambiguous divide exists between being compassionate for people trying to improve their lots on the one hand, and understanding that Americans struggle to do the same thing without breaking the law to do it on the other hand. & (I would argue that although many would say they never break the law to make ends meet, there is still some fringe economic activity, such as pirated entertainment, helping some with tight budgets).

My biggest fear while here has been that Senator Obama's insult about guns and God will come back to haunt him, and that his words not only struck a chord but then also grew roots. & If I had to guess, I'd say this state goes Red in a few weeks. & I hope this isn't the case and can't wait to be proven wrong.

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