Obama draws 4 of 5 ‘Undecideds’

The Undecideds - Decided

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Undecided voters, from left to right, Larry Tropepe, Mary Lou Hoon and Bill Sutherin.

By David Skolnick

Even the lone John McCain supporter in the group said the candidate’s choice for vice president hurt the ticket.

BOARDMAN — Three of “The Undecideds” who voted for President-elect Barack Obama said they could have supported Republican John McCain if he had a different vice-presidential running mate.

Larry Tropepe, 49, of Austintown, said if McCain, a U.S. senator from Arizona, had selected ex-Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge or former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney rather than Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the election outcome “could have been a landslide the other way.”

Ridge or Romney “could have changed my votes,” he added.

“The Undecideds,” five voters who were unsure about whom they’d support for president, met weekly in October with The Vindicator, which brought them together, at the Youngstown Sports Grille in Boardman to discuss the campaign.

Three of the five members of “The Undecideds” met after the election to discuss who they voted for and why.

Bill Sutherin, 61, of East Palestine, said it was a “good possibility” that he would have voted for McCain if Ridge, Romney or U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine had been the Republican vice-presidential nominee.

“It may not have been a landslide [for the Republicans], but they could have held the states they’ve always held,” said Sutherin, retired from the Ohio Department of Transportation.

Ridge on the ticket could have changed Mary Lou Hoon’s vote. The 66-year-old Struthers resident said Ridge impresses her and having him as the Republican vice-presidential nominee “could have been a landslide [victory] for McCain.”

Brandi Williams, 26, of Boardman, a member of “The Undecideds,” couldn’t attend the group’s last meeting with the newspaper.

She was the lone member to vote for McCain.

But Williams, an administrative assistant, agreed with the others that Palin adversely impacted the election outcome.

“I think Palin hurt [McCain] a lot,” she said. “I don’t think she was ready [to be vice president] ... It might be best she didn’t get in there.”

Greg Mook, 22, of Youngstown, the final member of “The Undecideds,” dropped out of the group early after deciding to vote for Obama.

A Youngstown State University student, Mook said the main reason for his decision to support the Democrat was primarily because of Obama’s position on the key issues to Mook: the economy and the war in Iraq.

Regarding Palin, Mook said “It made it easier to vote for Obama. It was a factor, but it wasn’t the only factor or the main factor.”

While munching on finger foods at the Youngstown Sports Grille, Tropepe, Sutherin and Hoon all said they are “relieved” that the election is over.

The three were leaning toward voting for Obama, but it wasn’t until Saturday that Tropepe and Sutherin made their final decision. Hoon decided a day earlier.

With the country a “mess,” the next president needs to be someone with “new ideas,” and that’s Obama, Tropepe said.

Hoon was impressed with Obama’s ability to withstand negative attacks and respond with grace.

It was Obama’s positions on the economy and health care that Sutherin said led him to vote for the Democrat.

Tropepe and Sutherin spent hours watching the election coverage on television.

“It was like the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl,” Tropepe said when the final results came in.

While watching Obama deliver his victory speech last week, Tropepe said he was “shell-shocked. History’s been changed forever in this country.”

Hoon, who works for a law firm, served as a poll worker on Election Day. She awoke at 4:30 a.m. and fell asleep before Obama was declared the winner. She saw Obama’s speech the next day.

The three offered advice for the Republican Party.

“They have to realize this is a more diverse country and they’re not” diverse, Sutherin said. “They have to expand the party.”

Hoon said the Republicans “need to regroup, and they need to change their ideals and involve more Americans.”

Tropepe said he and other voters were tired with the job done by Republicans, most notably President Bush.

“They had eight years to get this right,” he said. “The party has become so out of touch with the needs of this country.”

Tropepe said he thinks the Republican Party has “cowered to the evangelical Christians.”

A final note about “The Undecideds”: Tropepe, who took a buyout from his position at a bank just before they first met, is starting a new job at another bank Monday.


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