How John McCain won one Minnesotan's vote

Andrew Foxwell
Andrew Foxwell, a senior at St. Olaf College in Northfield, looks at the results of an online political quiz that paired him with Republican presidential candidate John McCain.
MPR Photo/Curtis Gilbert

Foxwell was part of a political science class that went to New Hampshire and South Carolina back in January to get some hands-on experience with presidential politics.

They worked phone banks, helped with campaign events and knocked on doors. But as the trip drew near, Foxwell couldn't decide which campaign he wanted to help.

"Everyone else had picked a candidate, and I was just flustered, because I needed to figure this out and e-mail my professors and be like: 'This is who I'm working for,'" Foxwell said.

So, like many a college student looking for answers, Foxwell turned to the Internet.

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He took one of those online candidate quizzes that have exploded in popularity this year. makes you assign points to an issue to show how much you care about it.

McCain in New Hampshire
Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., answers questions at a Jan. 3 town hall meeting in Derry, N.H.
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

"I'm not going to assign any to medical marijuana and drug policy," Foxwell said as he went through the quiz again, recently. "Civil liberties and domestic security, I'll give a couple points to that."

Then you answer some questions about how you think those issues should be addressed.

"Privatizing social security through personal social security accounts? Yes. Great idea," Foxwell said. "Support or oppose an increase in troop levels in Iraq? I do strongly support that."

At the end of the quiz, the computer told Foxwell he agreed with John McCain on most issues.

Obama in L.A.
Presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., participates in the Jan. 31 CNN/LA Times/Politico Democratic presidential debate Los Angeles.
Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

"[I] kind of just took the quiz, and that was the big moment: OK, I'm voting for John McCain," he said.

Volunteering for McCain in New Hampshire only deepened Foxwell's commitment. Now, it really bothers him when he hears the Democratic candidates mischaracterize McCain's position on Iraq.

Barack Obama at a Jan. 31 debate in Los Angeles: "When John McCain suggests that we might be there 100 years, that, I think, indicates a profound lack of understanding that we've got a whole host of global threats out there."

Hillary Clinton at a Feb. 26 debate in Cleveland: "I've also been a leader in trying to prevent President Bush from getting us committed to staying in Iraq regardless for as long as Senator McCain and others have said it might be, 50 to a hundred years."

Clinton in Cleveland
Presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., speaks in a Feb. 26 debate at Cleveland State University.
Photo by J.D. Pooley/Getty Images

"It's just absolutely ridiculous," Foxwell said arguing that Clinton and Obama are quoting McCain out of context, and that they miss the larger point McCain made at that Jan. 3 town hall meeting in Derry, N.H.

"I was at that meeting," Foxwell said. "My friend Matt was holding the mic for that guy," who pressed McCain repeatedly on exactly what he hoped to accomplish in Iraq.

"President Bush has talked about our staying in Iraq for 50 years," the man said.

"Maybe 100," McCain shot back.

Those are the two words Clinton and Obama latched onto, but Foxwell says there was much more to the discussion.

"It was this back-and-forth exchange, and it was so great," he said. "[The man] was bringing up good points, and Sen. McCain was like, 'please, follow up.' He didn't shy away."

McCain didn't say he wanted fighting to go on for 100 years. But he said he didn't see any problem with the U.S. having permanent military bases in Iraq.

"We've been in Japan for 60 years," McCain said. "We've been in South Korea for 50 years or so. That'd be fine with me … as long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed."

"And then," Foxwell said, "at the end of the speech -- this the piece that no reporter ever says -- he said, 'This is the kind of dialogue that needs to take place in America.' This is how we're going to get things done."

It might have been an online quiz that that won John McCain Andrew Foxwell's vote, but it was that town hall meeting that won his heart.