Indiana voters weigh the issues

Image:  Voters mark their ballots
Voters mark their ballots at polling place in the Greenbriar Mobile Home Park May 6, 2008 in Indianapolis.Scott Olson / Getty Images
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“It scares the hell out of me, it really does.”

Brett Schaefer, a resident here in Southern Indiana, says that despite the lessening chatter over the tussle between Sen. Barack Obama and his former pastor, the issue is still top-of-mind for many Democratic voters.

“I cannot stand here and think that that was the first time his preacher has talked that way,” Schaefer said.

Asked if she will vote for Obama in November should he be the nominee, Schaefer said she wasn’t sure, although a friend who accompanied her to the poll, Michelle Nix, said she will not.

But even in this conservative stronghold, neither said they would instead necessarily vote for Sen. John McCain in November.

“I think McCain is just another Bush,” said Schaefer.

“I mean you have to choose between a gallon of milk and a gallon of gas,” she added, nearly quoting verbatim a Sen. Hillary Clinton campaign ad that has been airing locally.

Nix added that should Obama be the nominee, she may just not vote.

Republican crossovers also abound.

At a polling station down the road in Newburgh, Ind., a self-described independent voter, who has voted Republican in recent presidential elections, said he was part of “Rush Limbaugh’s ‘Project Chaos,’” which seeks to prolong the Democratic nomination process.

The former teacher, who requested to not be identified, said he considers national security and energy independence among his top priorities as a voter, but has not yet been impressed by the crop of candidates currently running.

He wishes he had a “third choice” in November, saying he's unsure if he’d vote for the eventual Democratic nominee or McCain.

After considering that quandry for a moment, he added, “Most likely it will be Senator McCain.”

He then headed to a Democratic primary polling place and cast his ticket for Clinton.

Many Hoosiers are also talking about “kitchen table” issues that are serving as voting motivation during this election.

Just as Clinton supporter Schaefer claimed gas prices here is a concern for her, so did Obama supporter Glenna Polz, who lives in nearby Evansville.

The retired federal worker said she “just didn’t get a good impression” from Clinton when she was first lady, and cited the appeal of Obama's mantra of “change.”

Polz was even asked by poll workers to take off her Obama lapel pin before entering the polling place, unaware that it’s against regulations to wear it inside.

Heather Lenn, a nurse in Evansville who lives in Boonville, said health care is her top issue for her.

“I think she has more of a plan than Barack Obama does,” she said after casting her ballot for Clinton this morning. “I’ve followed her health care plan for years and I just think it’s more defined than Obama’s.”

Still , some others are less focused on domestic troubles and are more concerned with issues overseas.

One college student, home from college for the summer, said that while the economy is “important,” that the war in Iraq is her main concern. She thinks Obama is the best equipped to deal with it.

“I have a personal stake in Iraq because I have family over there, “ she added.

Retired elementary school teacher Janet Kraus also cites the issue of American foreign relations.

“The thing for me is how we are seen in the rest of the world,” said Kraus, who voted early and was volunteering at an Evansville precinct for the Obama campaign.

“My first thing is I want a president who’s competent, and I don’t think we’ve had one for the past eight years,” she added.

Kraus also predicted that Obama will fare better in the more-urban Evansville, attributing some of the Clinton support in rural areas to “working class white people in small towns who are afraid of change.”

But she also said that she would vote for Clinton should she be the nominee in November. “If he weren’t in the race, I’d support Hillary,” she added.