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Debate Didn't Change Minds Of Wavering Ind. Voters

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Debate Didn't Change Minds Of Wavering Ind. Voters

Election 2008

Debate Didn't Change Minds Of Wavering Ind. Voters

Debate Didn't Change Minds Of Wavering Ind. Voters

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/95128693/95128678" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

The First Debate

Hear the candidates debate and NPR analysis, and see a photo gallery from the event in Oxford, Miss.

Democrats running for president usually fare poorly in the Hoosier state. In fact, they rarely waste time campaigning here. A Democrat has won Indiana only four times in the past century, says Indianapolis Star political reporter Mary Beth Schneider.

"The last time a democrat carried Indiana, it was Lyndon Johnson, and it took a national landslide to tip Indiana in his favor. Since then, it hasn't even been close," she said.

Until this year, that is. Several recent polls, including one in the Star last week, put McCain and Obama in a virtual dead heat here. So NPR and the Indianapolis Star invited a few of the voters who said they were still undecided to watch the first presidential debate together.

Neil White, a 41-year-old disabled former restaurant worker, said he was frustrated by the answers to the financial bailout question.

"They didn't really answer it; they just kept saying we shouldn't have got there to begin with, but they didn't really give a definite — they don't give you a clear answer," he said.

White, who was leaning toward McCain, did like the Republican's call to freeze some government spending to help pay for the bailout. But 56-year-old John Ramsey of Anderson, Ind., appreciated Obama's response.

"One thing Obama said that I did like was about protecting the taxpayers and tracking the money and making sure there's oversight," Ramsey said.

Ramsey came in leaning toward Obama and said he found McCain's response to the financial crisis meandering, bringing up things like offshore drilling, which Ramsey feels doesn't have anything to do with the current financial crisis. But Ramsey did like McCain's stand against wasteful spending.

"I know he does have a great record for not being a pork barrel spending freak like some of the other people in the Senate and the House," he said. "Things like that just drive me nuts, totally irresponsible spending."

John Hoover, a 56-year old former air traffic controller from Avon, Ind., who now trains controllers, didn't like either candidate's response to the financial crisis.

"I was disappointed with both of them because they both had a chance to say, 'Wait a minute, the bailout doesn't exist yet and we have other options to the bailout,' " Hoover said.

His wife Colleen, a medical billing clerk, said she was completely undecided and honestly did not really want to be there as the debate started. But she came away saying that if she had to vote today: "I think I'd vote for Obama."

Colleen Hoover said she favors Obama's world view.

"I think McCain, I thought he was intelligent, I think he knew a lot about foreign affairs, I just think he wants war more than I want war," she said.

Iraq is a top issue for Jim Ramsey. He said McCain's experience and understanding of foreign affairs impressed him, but Ramsey is still leaning toward Obama because of the Democrat's response to the lessons of the war in Iraq.

"One of the things I have to agree on is I really think we should have gotten bin Laden when we had the chance. That was a key misstep in this whole war on terror," Ramsey said.

John Hoover said he's still undecided but that Obama did better than he expected.

"I think in the closing statements, Obama probably came out ahead, because to me, he hit a gut level response when he said he wanted to restore America's standing in the world, because it has really suffered the last six years," Hoover said.

These undecided voters said they'll be Googling for more information on the issues raised in Friday night's debate, and they're looking forward to the next two presidential debates — and next week's vice presidential debate, too — before deciding whom they'll vote for Nov. 4.