‘Undecideds’ gingerly move toward decision

Undecideds - Week 4

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The Undecideds: 5 Mahoning Valley Residents discuss their uncertainties of which future President they want in the White House; Democratic Senator Barack Obama or Republican Senator John McCain.

Bill Sutherin

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The Undecideds

Brandi Williams

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The Undecideds

Mary Lou Hoon

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The Undecideds

Larry Tropepe

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The Undecideds

By David Skolnick

Most remaining members lean toward Democrat Barack Obama.

BOARDMAN — With the election only a few days away, “The Undecideds” are essentially decided on whom they’ll vote for in the presidential election.

Greg Mook, 22, a Youngstown State University senior, is the only member of the group of undecided voters, brought together by The Vindicator, who is completely sure of his vote — and it’s for Democrat Barack Obama.

As part of the deal with the newspaper, once a member of “The Undecideds” becomes decided, that person is done with the group.

So what made Mook decide to back Obama?

“I took a step back and decided,” said Mook, who was leaning toward Obama before making the final decision.

Mook, of Youngstown, said he likes Obama’s positions on the economy, health care and the war in Iraq compared with Republican John McCain’s.

The four others met earlier this week over chicken fingers and onion rings at the Youngstown Sports Grille to discuss where they are in the decision-making process.

Larry Tropepe, 49, of Austintown and Bill Sutherin, 61, of East Palestine had said a week earlier that they were leaning toward Obama.

The lean this week is significantly more in Obama’s favor for the two.

Tropepe, who recently lost his job at a bank, said he was more than 80 percent sure he’ll vote for Obama.

Sutherin, retired from the Ohio Department of Transportation, said he’s 67 percent sure he’ll cast his ballot for the Democrat.

Both votes had more to do with their concerns about Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee, than their excitement over Obama as president.

“The more that comes out about Sarah Palin, the more it frightens me that ... she’s only a heartbeat away from the presidency” if McCain wins, Tropepe said.

“The more I listen to her, I think she would be a great motivational speaker, but I’m not sure she’s ready to lead if she had to,” Sutherin added.

The only way Sutherin said he’d consider changing his mind is if something came out in the final days before the election that Obama was not being “truthful about parts of his life.”

Mary Lou Hoon, 50, of Struthers said if she had to vote now, she’d go with Obama. But it’s hardly a ringing endorsement for the Democratic presidential nominee.

She, too, has major concerns about Palin, which have her leaning toward Obama.

“McCain’s running mate, I don’t believe she’s qualified to hold the office of vice president much less president,” said Hoon, who works in a law office. “Just the way she presents herself. I don’t think she’s qualified for that position.”

Hoon and Brandi Williams, 26, of Boardman are still considering not voting for president Tuesday.

Williams, an administrative assistant, said she is 75 percent sure she’s voting for McCain. As for the remaining percentages, 2 percent goes to Obama and 23 percent to not voting for either.

Williams is concerned Obama would “give our jobs away” if elected president. She said she knows four people who lost their jobs this week.

But like the other members of “The Undecideds,” Williams has concerns about Palin, even though she is leaning heavily toward voting for the Republican ticket.

Williams attended a Palin rally Oct. 23 with her mother.

“I was very disappointed,” she said. “I think I expected more ... She seemed so much like a cheerleader out there to kind of pep everybody up. It’s not what I wanted.”

Williams said she was “mad” watching Palin speak at the rally, and a number of people left the event during the speech after waiting for a long time to hear her.

Then Williams saw clips of a later Palin rally on television in which the candidate talked specifics about issues, and was impressed with what she heard.

No one in the group said McCain or Obama will be able to solve the main problems facing this country: the struggling economy and the need for affordable health insurance.

“I don’t think either of them has a plan to correct those issues,” Tropepe said.

He added that neither candidate “have a clue” as to resolving the two issues.

“The Undecideds” say they still have family and friends who try to persuade them to vote for a certain candidate.

The attempts haven’t been effective, they said.

“I’ve had people on both sides try to convince me, but none have tried really hard to convince me,” Sutherin said.

It’s gotten personal for Williams.

“I definitely think the Democrats are more passionate about it,” she said. “... They get so mad at me. There’s a lot more anger and a lot more meanness there than Republicans. Some of the stuff that’s been said to me I kind of think, ‘Are you serious?’”

Some of the comments, she said, are “cruel and crude.”

Hoon said it’s the opposite for her.

The comments aren’t personal, Hoon said, and it’s Republicans and not Democrats who are “trying to force their opinions on me.”

No members of the group said they’d be upset if their candidate loses the election.