Iraq, Experience Key In Election For Walsh, Colo.

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In Focus

Walsh is a small farming town in southeastern Colorado. i

Hundreds of miles from any major city, the small farming town of Walsh, in southeastern Colorado, has survived mainly through its 700 residents' tenacity and determination. In the past, Walsh has voted overwhelmingly Republican. David Gilkey/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption David Gilkey/NPR
Walsh is a small farming town in southeastern Colorado.

Hundreds of miles from any major city, the small farming town of Walsh, in southeastern Colorado, has survived mainly through its 700 residents' tenacity and determination. In the past, Walsh has voted overwhelmingly Republican.

David Gilkey/NPR
Tyler Jones climbs out of his dog run as his wife, Carol Morrow, and their daughter look on. i

Tyler Jones climbs out of his dog run after feeding his two dogs, as his wife, Carol Morrow, and their 15-month-old daughter, Marley, look on. Jones is a reservist with the Colorado National Guard and expects his deployment orders to Iraq. Morrow, who opposes the war, is a staunch Obama supporter. Jones remains undecided. David Gilkey/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption David Gilkey/NPR
Tyler Jones climbs out of his dog run as his wife, Carol Morrow, and their daughter look on.

Tyler Jones climbs out of his dog run after feeding his two dogs, as his wife, Carol Morrow, and their 15-month-old daughter, Marley, look on. Jones is a reservist with the Colorado National Guard and expects his deployment orders to Iraq. Morrow, who opposes the war, is a staunch Obama supporter. Jones remains undecided.

David Gilkey/NPR
A cross hangs in front of Tyler Jones' dog tags. i

A cross hangs in front of Tyler Jones' dog tags. His wife expects to hear news any day that he has received his deployment orders. David Gilkey/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption David Gilkey/NPR
A cross hangs in front of Tyler Jones' dog tags.

A cross hangs in front of Tyler Jones' dog tags. His wife expects to hear news any day that he has received his deployment orders.

David Gilkey/NPR
Makayla Girodat owns and operates a style salon near the center of Walsh. i

Makayla Girodat owns and operates a style salon near the center of Walsh. She has heard just about every rumor about this year's election from her clients, the television and the Internet. She's leaning toward voting for Obama but says she'll decide in the voting booth. David Gilkey/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption David Gilkey/NPR
Makayla Girodat owns and operates a style salon near the center of Walsh.

Makayla Girodat owns and operates a style salon near the center of Walsh. She has heard just about every rumor about this year's election from her clients, the television and the Internet. She's leaning toward voting for Obama but says she'll decide in the voting booth.

David Gilkey/NPR

Both times that President Bush won the White House, he depended on huge support from small towns. This fall, NPR has been checking in with one small town, Walsh, Colo.; population 700.

Walsh is in the southeast corner of Colorado. And the drive to get there is long and lonely, except for occasional cattle. Finally, the grain elevator in Walsh comes into view. This town is just a few blocks in each direction. But the campaign yard signs are out — most are McCain-Palin. Walsh is full of Republicans, like Mayor Clarence Jones.

Jones, a farmer, recently learned that his only son, Tyler, will very likely be deployed to Iraq next year as part of a National Guard artillery unit.

"As a parent, you spend your whole life protecting your children. And then they go off somewhere where people are trying to kill them," Jones says.

This changed the way he thought about the election.

"You know the whole gist so far is that [Republican candidate John] McCain would stay longer and long term there. So, that really took me back a little bit. I had to sit and think about that real hard."

After thinking, he decided to stick with McCain. In the end, Jones says, he just wants someone with experience in that Oval Office.

Jones did give Barack Obama a close look.

"He seems to stay calm and cool and collected," Jones says of the Democratic candidate. "But it's almost too much. It's just a little too smooth for my way of thinking."

So, the mayor is dealing with his son Tyler possibly heading for Iraq. Tyler's wife, Carol Morrow, is dealing with the news as well.

Morrow, a dentist, has long been against this war. She feels as if her vote for Obama on Tuesday is one step toward bringing Americans, like perhaps her husband, out of Iraq.

"I think it's pointless for him to go," Morrow says. "And that's why I'm so hugely involved and have been hugely involved with Obama from the beginning."

This town may seem far from everything. People talk about a three-hour drive to the big city: Amarillo, Texas. Still, far-flung as it is, Walsh could not be more engaged in this campaign.

After a play rehearsal in town one recent evening, everyone was eager to talk politics. One question in this red state is whether Republicans who have been tempted by Obama will actually vote for him.

Thinking Of Times Past

Alan Packard sounds tempted. The preschool teacher says these images of Obama with his young girls have conjured up memories of John F. Kennedy.

"I love the idea of having a president in our White House with young kids. And I just think that that would be a great thing for our country," Packard says.

But he is voting for McCain. Packard says he's too nervous about how much Obama might spend as president, working with a Democratic-led Congress.

"I'm a whole lot more afraid of [Democratic congressional leaders] Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid than I am of Barack Obama," Packard adds.

It's a different story from Makayla Girodat, 25, who owns a hair styling shop. A Republican, she voted for Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary. Then Girodat was onboard with Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential candidate.

"Bless her heart, I was rooting for her ... because she's a woman, and I'm not women's lib or anything. But, hey, it's exciting," Girodat says.

But over time, she says, she felt like Palin rarely gave substantive answers to questions.

"Can't they understand that we just want to hear about the issues and we just want to hear where they stand?" Girodat says. "To me, Obama answered the questions. It's a relief almost."

Mixed Emotions That Campaigns Are Ending

One relief for a lot of people here is that this never-ending campaign is really about to end. And yet, Dolly Morrow, a teacher and Carol Morrow's mother, says following the campaign online all these months has been kind of addictive.

"Here, you can get kind of isolated," Dolly Morrow says.

So, on Wednesday after the election, what will she do with the time she spent keeping up with the presidential campaign?

"Oh, I don't know," Dolly Morrow says. "I'll probably watch some of my reality shows again, go back to Top Chef and some of those. I don't know. I hope maybe it will keep me in the mood to stay on top of what's next."

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