Days before their primary, Indiana voters are talking about Barack Obama's former pastor's return to the media spotlight this week. Obama has criticized the Rev. Jeremiah Wright for controversial remarks about race and the Sept. 11 attacks — all of which come at an awkward time for the Democratic candidate.
Some voters say Obama is guilty by association, while others suggest that the controversy sparked by Wright's comments is overblown and will not affect their vote in Tuesday's primary.
Charlie Golfis, a hardware store owner in Hammond, said a lot of people in this part of northwest Indiana are worried about the economy, from high gasoline prices to the loss of thousands of manufacturing jobs. But he admitted that they're talking a lot about Wright's inflammatory comments.
Lloyd, a 64-year-old retired roofer who didn't give his last name, says he thinks Wright is getting too much attention.
"That's all you hear," he said. "I want to hear about what's going to happen with gasoline. I don't want to hear about what happens with Rev. Wright. He's a jerk!"
Lloyd said he thinks Obama should be the next president, but that Wright might have hurt his chances. "I think he hurt him with the ranting and raving that he does," he said.
A few blocks away, at Olympia Lanes, the Wednesday senior citizens bowling league was getting under way. Chester Lobidinski, a retired steelworker from Crown Point, Ind., said he isn't happy about all of the skeletons coming out of the closet in the presidential race, and that he has no use for Wright.
"If you can't say anything good about somebody, don't say anything at all. This is America. Suppose this was another country — how do you think they'd be treated? You just don't run down America," Lobidinski said. He said he's undecided about whom to vote for, but the Wright controversy isn't helping Obama win him over.
Carl Turner, a former boilermakers' union president who is supporting Clinton, is supporting Hillary Clinton. He called Wright a kook and said Obama is responsible for associating with him.
"Why wait 20 years to distance yourself from somebody that has that kind of outlook on society, period? I say that he sat in the pews in that church and listened to that crap for 20 years, and somehow it had to sink in on him," Turner said.
John Blasko, a retired steelworker from Whiting, Ind., disagreed with that take on the Wright controversy's impact on Obama.
"It has hurt him, but it has not hurt him with me," Blasko said. The lifelong Republican is supporting Obama. He said he evaluates the candidates' records, not where they go to church or what their pastors say.
Blasko said he plans to stick with his candidate, but not all Indiana voters will be as willing to overlook the questions raised by Wright.