Debates still leave many undecided

Debate watching
More than 100 people gathered at Minnesota Public Radio to watch Friday night's presidential debate.
MPR Photo/Curtis Gilbert

Of all the people who came into the debate watching party undecided, only one left with his mind made up. John Tangiers from Minneapolis says flatly that the 72-year-old John McCain just looked too old up there on stage, and Tangiers wasn't very nice about it.

"I thought that McCain was probably dead since 2002," said Tangiers.

So now he's an Obama supporter, but the rest of the undecided votrers are still undecided. St. Louis Park resident Rick Dworsky summed up the sentiment of the group.

"I haven't heard enough solid suggestions, strategies, tactics, whatever that will say, 'This is the guy; I'm confident voting for and putting into office,'" said Dworsky.

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Dworsky is used to being an undecided voter. He typically waits until the last minute before choosing a candidate.

"Usually for me, it's the week before the election," he said about when he picks a candidate to vote for in the election.

But just because he's still weighing his options, doesn't mean Dworsky was unmoved by what he saw last night.

He listened to both McCain and Obama closely, and he paid close attention to their body language, especially when the other one was speaking.

"I like the fact that Obama would actually look at McCain and concede that, 'Yes, John, you were right on this.' It disturbed me a little that John McCain wouldn't return that courtesy," said Dworsky.

Dworsky's wife Linda started the night leaning strongly toward McCain, but McCain didn't seal the deal at the debate. In fact, he was far from it.

"I'm more confused than I was when I came tonight, and I felt like it was a ping-pong match," said Linda Dworksy. "I was like back and forth, and I just felt like my head was spinning. There was a lot of things said that didn't amount to much. That was my impression."

Linda Dworsky said Obama came off as more knowledgeable about foreign policy than she expected, but she strongly disagrees with Obama on a number of key issues, including his plan to increase government involvement in health care. So she's back to being undecided.

Eden Prairie Insurance agent Jamie Larson supported Hillary Clinton through the primaries, but hasn't heeded her call to back Obama.

"My whole response is that I vote for someone I want to vote for, not who I'm told to vote for, even if it was my candidate," said Larson.

Larson considers himself fiscally conservative, and McCain's attack on Obama for requesting special funding for home state projects in Illinois made an impression on him.

"There is a lot of issues that I will have to research now that John McCain brought up about Barack's voting history and the pork, and different things like that that make me question Barack even more," said Larson.

But Larson is also liberal in other areas, and he has a hard time with McCain's position on social issues. Larson's partner Mark Ellingson feels the same way about McCain.

"When he's more true to himself, I like him, but when starts to do things like choose Sarah Palin as a running mate, that turns me off," said Ellingson.

But Ellingson says he still might vote for McCain, and the debate didn't do much to help him make up his mind.

Dell Erickson, a retired money manager from Brooklyn Center, feels the same way. He thought Obama seemed more substantive, but McCain was more likable, which was actually the opposite of what he'd expected.

"I thought Obama made his nice stump speeches, and I really thought he was charismatic and positive. But I got a distinctly different opinion tonight, and I'm really more in a quandary than I was before," said Erickson.

A couple of the undecided voters say they feel pressure from their friends to make up their minds. Erickson says the most intense pressure comes from himself.

"When you're wrestling with this kind of a decision, it's something you take seriously. And it takes a lot of mental effort to keep this up, once you make a decision, it's easy," said Erickson.

And the undecided voters have two more presidential debates to help them make that decision, not to mention next week's vice presidential forum.