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Undecided voters react to the final presidential debate

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Debate party
MPR debate-watching party.
MPR Photo/Curtis Gilbert

They've seen six hours worth of John McCain, Sarah Palin, Barack Obama, and Joe Biden.

It wasn't Joe the plumber that won him over, but Jeremy Bierlein isn't an undecided voter anymore.

Undecided to decided
Jeremy Bierlien (background) decided who to vote for after Wedensday's presidential debate. Rick Dworsky (foreground) hasn't. Bierlein will support Obama.
MPR Photo/Curtis Gilbert

"I am voting on the issues. Health care is important to me. Education is important to me."  

Closing the budget deficit is important to him, too. And Bierlein was disappointed neither McCain nor Obama would say they'd give up some of their proposals in light of the sagging economy.

"But based on health care, based on education and based on who I see the help going to in the near term for economic relief, I'm going for Obama," Bierlein said.  

If our undecided voters were a representative sample of the population -- and let's be perfectly clear that they aren't -- then you'd have to say Obama won the debate.

  Linda Dworsky came to all four of our debate watching parties. When she started she was leaning strongly toward McCain.

The candidates in their final debate
U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) (L) speaks as Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) (R) and moderator Bob Schieffer of CBS News listen during the third presidential debate in the David S. Mack Sports and Exhibition Complex at Hofstra University October 15, 2008 in Hempstead, New York. This is the final debate before voters will go to the polls in the 2008 general election on November 4.
Pool/Getty Images

But now she's not.

"Over the period of coming to the debates and learning on my own, I've lost confidence in McCain and gained confidence in Obama."   Dworsky used to worry Obama's health care plan would amount to a government-run single-payer insurance system like Canada has. But now she's comfortable that it's not. 

She prefers it to McCain's plan to move Americans toward buying their own insurance rather than getting it through their employers.

She also likes the way Obama has been coming across in the debates.

"I found that McCain was smug and disrespectful toward Obama on several occasions and that turned me off."

John McCain smiles during the debate
Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) smiles during the third presidential debate in the David S. Mack Sports and Exhibition Complex at Hofstra University.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Dworsky is still keeping an open mind. She isn't ready to call herself a decided voter, yet. But she's moving in that direction.

Her husband Rick isn't.

"I don't feel the pressure to make up my mind until the day of the election and I'm okay with that."

Rick Dworsky almost always waits until the last minute to choose a candidate. He has an almost judicial approach. He wants to be fair and take in all the information he possibly can before casting his ballot.

And if Dworsky says something nice about one candidate, he makes sure to praise the other one, too.

Barack Obama
Democratic presidential nominee U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) speaks during the third presidential debate. This is the final debate before voters will go to the polls in the 2008 general election on November 4.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

"Hearing John McCain's record, I think he's got the fortitude, he's got the experience that the other candidate doesn't and Obama is just a wonderful orator and he gets better with every debate."

Dell Erickson also finds things he likes about both candidates, and he's certainly going to vote this year.

"The question is will I vote for a president."

Erickson worries McCain has become too conservative for him, but worries Obama is too inexperienced.

Erickson is looking for one of the candidates to say something new, something that will grab him and convince him that one is clearly better. But he's found the debates utterly unhelpful in that regard.

"We need to have a different kind of a process for examining the points of view of the candidates, because this is not working." 

The first three debates didn't work for Jamie Larson, either, but this time was different.

McCain and Obama shake before the debate
Republican presidential candidate U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) (L) and Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Barak Obama (D-IL) shake hands during the third presidential debate in the David S. Mack Sports and Exhibition Complex at Hofstra University October 15, 2008 in Hempstead, New York. This is the final debate before voters will go to the polls in the 2008 general election on November 4. (Photo by Charles Dharapak-Pool/Getty Images)
Pool/Getty Images

"I've swung dramatically in this last debate."

Larson was Hillary Clinton supporter, and he's had a really hard time picturing himself voting for Obama. But this debate left him closer than he's ever been.

"Barack didn't appear arrogant, and actually looked presidential. This is the very first time I've ever seen that." 

Larson's partner, Mark Ellingson, has been soul searching, too. He had also been seriously considering supporting McCain. But when he heard McCain say in the debate that Roe versus Wade should be overturned, Ellingson knew he couldn't vote for him.

"If it was McCain of 2000, who was much more moderate, I could get behind him. But I just can't get behind him, and the fact that he has Sarah Palin right behind him."

Ellingson said Palin is both unqualified and too conservative. So here's his plan. If Barack Obama has a giant lead in the Minnesota polls on election day, he'll write in Hillary Clinton.

But if the race looks close, he's now comfortable voting for Obama.