Ah, that revered species, the American voter:
A couple blocks east, at Jimmy’s Quick Lunch, Clinton’s the favorite of many regulars.
“I like her backup man,” said retired machinist Ronald Duser, referring to former President Bill Clinton. “And her family’s from Scranton. She seems to be an honest person, just like my wife.”
Of Obama, Duser said: “I’m not crazy about voting for a colored guy, but that’s not why I don’t support Obama. I’m not prejudiced. I just like Hillary.”
A couple tables over, Jean Fetterman, a foster grandparent, said of Clinton: “Oh, I love her. She’s a very intelligent person, and she has her husband who went through this.”
She scoffs at the idea of voting for Obama: “I don’t want to be a Muslim!” She looks dubious when told Obama is Christian. “Then why did he go see what’s-his-name over in Iraq, that Lama?”
She isn’t clear about whom she means. She may have seen a photo of Obama wearing traditional clothing during a visit to Africa. “I don’t care what color he is, I don’t care if he’s pink,” she said. “I don’t think he’s got the same education Hillary has, and he’s so young. He’s arrogant, too.”
Rosella Sheppard, 62, plans to support McCain because she’s a Republican, and her son, who’s in the National Guard, will leave for Iraq in the fall. “I’m not a war person, but I do feel we need to address the terrorists,” she said.
Democrats already outnumber Republicans by close to 2 to 1 here. But McCain’s sympathetic approach toward immigration may cost him Republican support too, perhaps even from the city’s mayor, Lou Barletta, who’s using his activist role in the immigration debate to challenge the local Democratic congressman.
Barletta said he’s invited McCain and the two Democrats to Hazleton to discuss immigration, but McCain declined and Obama and Clinton haven’t responded.
“If you feel illegal immigration is a serious issue, how could you come to Pennsylvania as a presidential candidate and not come here?” Barletta said. “I do believe Hazleton does play a role in this presidential election because of what we represent.”
And what does Hazleton represent? Judging only from the quotes above, racism, ignorance, and xenophobia. While the cluelessness of the average voter is obviously a danger for Obama, it is also why I am so perplexed by the refusal of people like Paul Krugman to deal at all with matters of personality, rhetoric, likability, etc. Like it or not, these things have as much to do with how people vote as the issues. It’s good that Krugman and others want to put more focus on policy differences, but to encourage elite NYTimes readers not to consider matters of personality and likability seems very misguided, since those are the things that will probably end up determining the election. Why did Gore and Kerry lose? Because voters preferred the details of Bush’s health care plan? Get real.