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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Renee Montagne.

And the next stop in the presidential campaign, Wisconsin. That state's primary is next Tuesday. It's an open primary, meaning anyone can vote for any party's candidate. In a moment we'll get some political analysis from our political experts.

First, NPR's Linda Wertheimer is in western Wisconsin, out and around Eau Claire, talking to another kind of expert: the voters.

(Soundbite of phone ringing)

LINDA WERTHEIMER: Engine Company No. 9 is based on the west side of Eau Claire. Firefighters and paramedics take 24-hour shifts, tucked into a cozy firehouse, waiting for that radio call to hurl them into the snowy cold. We talked to some of them between engagements.

Joel Pettus(ph) drives the fire truck. Here's how he sees the candidates:

Mr. JOEL PETTUS (Firefighter, Eau Claire, Wisconsin): I have a little feeling against McCain with the war issue and I'm not so sure he's up on our economics. As far as Clinton goes, I'm a little nervous about her and her husband being running the show, possibly, but I'm not totally locked on Obama either.

WERTHEIMER: Pettus, like many Wisconsin voters, is keeping all the candidates under consideration, treating the Wisconsin primary like a general election with three candidates. Voters here also consider issues, and in this land of frozen lakes and rivers, they give special emphasis to the environment.

(Soundbite of music)

WERTHEIMER: At the popcorn and politics film festival at the local library, we sneaked in just ahead of the movie and met Rick, Nick and Art.

Mr. RICK BELL (Wisconsin Voter, Retired Reference Librarian): I like Obama because of the chance for change that he promises. And there's a little touch of the Kennedy mystique there I think. I've seen some of his speeches and some of his clips that are quite inspiring.

Mr. NICK NOVAK (Wisconsin Voter, Stone Mason): Well, my guys never win. I was pulling for my little elf-eared Serbian brother Dennis Kucinich. I vote chiefly on issues of energy and the environment. I think both Obama and Clinton have a lot of educating to do on those subjects. I do however find Obama inspiring. I haven't heard a person like this, who can woo me like he can. I like words. When I hear him speak he gives shivers down my spine. And like the gentleman said before, I would really like to see the United States reach some pinnacle of respect again.

WERTHEIMER: Art, what about you?

Mr. ART GULICK(ph) (Wisconsin Voter, Retired Theater Technician): What he said.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WERTHEIMER: Rick Bell is a retired reference librarian, Nick Novak is a stone mason, and Art Gulick is a retired theater technician.

Continuing with our theme of winter, we talked to members of the women's curling league at the city's curling center.

(Soundbite of curling stone hitting ice)

WERTHEIMER: Nora Fuller(ph) took her turn at sliding the rock down the ice, hoping it would slide into the house, perhaps knocking out other team's rocks.

(Soundbite of curling stone hitting ice)

WERTHEIMER: Fuller also joined her teammates furiously sweeping the ice ahead of sliding rocks.

(Soundbite of brooms sweeping ice)

WERTHEIMER: She's a retired teacher. After the game, she told us she considered Obama but decided Clinton could better handle the job.

Ms. NORA FULLER (Curler, Retired Teacher, Wisconsin Voter): I remember when Jimmy Carter came in and I voted for him and I was so excited because I thought he was going to be a breath of fresh air in Washington, D.C. And he got in and Congress just stonewalled every single thing that he did. They spent more time making sure that his initiatives did not get passed.

And I worry about something like that happening with Obama too. I think that…

WERTHEIMER: We heard from a number of Republicans planning to vote for Democrats in the primary, mainly because they too want change. But we also found a few planning to vote strategically, hoping for a candidate their own party might beat.

Nate Muckwen(ph) owns Muck's Grill and Bar in Halle(ph), Wisconsin.

Mr. NATE MUCKWEN (Owner, Muck's Grill and Bar, Wisconsin Voter): I can't believe that I'd actually vote for Hillary Clinton for something. If I had to do it because I think that McCain can beat her, I would do it. With politics anything goes.

WERTHEIMER: The weather should warm up in western Wisconsin this weekend. Forecasts say it may get up to freezing, and then level off to a temperate 15 degrees, that's Fahrenheit, on primary day.

Linda Wertheimer, NPR News, Eau Claire.

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