The Concerns of Democrats in 'Dairyland' Democratic hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have been busy courting voters in Wisconsin ahead of Tuesday's primary.
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The Concerns of Democrats in 'Dairyland'

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The Concerns of Democrats in 'Dairyland'

The Concerns of Democrats in 'Dairyland'

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.

Republicans and Democrats hold primaries tomorrow in Wisconsin. John McCain is expected to easily win on the Republican side. For the Democrats it's a lot closer.

Ann-Elise Henzl from member station WUWM in Milwaukee has been out with her tape recorder and she found that tomorrow's primary is all people want to talk about.

Mr. JOHN WHITEHEAD (Student): It's hard to go anywhere or meet anyone without it coming up.

ANN-ELISE HENZL: John Whitehead is a political science major at UW-Milwaukee.

Mr. WHITEHEAD: It's a huge thing, you know, especially on college campuses. Young people are very concerned, you know? I mean we're trying to pay for college. We've got friends from high school that are literally dying in Iraq. I have four friends serving over there right now, you know. So there are some serious issues in this election that hit us directly.

HENZL: Other students have additional concerns, such as the high cost of healthcare. Michael Kenney of suburban Milwaukee knows what it's like to deal with big medical expenses. He works third shifts at Wal-Mart stocking shelves. Kenney has had his wages garnished because he couldn't keep up with his healthcare bills.

Mr. MICHAEL KENNEY: One thing I had, my kidneys were in failure - renal failure. They at one point told me I was going to need a kidney transplant. I was on kidney dialysis for a long time, ran up a lot of bills. It adds up quick.

HENZL: And insurance wouldn't cover that?

Mr. KENNEY: Some of it, yes. All of it, no, not by a long shot.

HENZL: Kenney attended a Clinton rally in a Milwaukee suburb last week to learn about her plan. The next day, curious voters attended a Barack Obama rally in downtown Milwaukee.

(Soundbite of music)

HENZL: Many talked about the slow economy as they waited in line to get to their seats. Realtors Dionne Barnes and Karen Stokes say they've had a tough time selling homes lately.

Ms. DIONNE BARNES (Realtor): Just with buyers not being sure, even though they have credit. They're creditworthy, but they are scared to take the plunge and to be responsible for a mortgage because the economy is so shaky right now.

Ms. KAREN STOKES (Realtor): People are losing their homes and it's really - it's real frightening. People work so hard and, you know, things just aren't adding up for them.

HENZL: In Milwaukee's predominately Latino neighborhood, voters are talking about the growing role they'll have in the presidential race. H. Nelson Goodson edits the Spanish language newspaper.

Mr. H. NELSON GOODSON (Editor, Spanish language newspaper): Undocumented immigrants are a great part of this country. And what a lot of people don't understand is that they do have family in Wisconsin that are U.S. citizens and they can vote.

HENZL: Goodson believes Latinos will vote for a Democrat for president because of outcry over recent Republican immigration proposals.

But Elizabeth Candalaria(ph) says she's motivated by a different issue. Candalaria is a student counselor at a technical college.

Ms. ELIZABETH CANDALARIA (Student Counselor): Some of my biggest concerns is the war. I had a loved one over there. Thank God he's back. So I'm very happy and fortunate. Not everybody's that fortunate. And because of the war, I think a lot of the money that should be going towards education is not going there.

HENZL: Meanwhile, there are additional hot topics for the state's farmers, such as Barney Lavin, who raises cattle and grain in the town of Dover. He says farmers want a candidate who will help a new farm bill pass in Congress and boost the market for goods produced on U.S. farms.

Mr. BARNEY LAVIN (Farmer): We need these funds, whether it's for food stamps for the poor, nutritional programs for children. Personally, as a farmer I think that's my job, to help feed the country.

HENZL: Lavin is a long-time Democrat. He says this presidential primary is especially tough for some voters, who see the strengths of both candidates and do not feel much pull to cross over and vote for Republican John McCain.

A few people we spoke to remained undecided between Obama and Clinton, and the rest were about equally divided between them.

For NPR News, I'm Ann-Elise Henzl in Milwaukee.

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