RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
The verdict in the Stevens trial is the latest blow to Republicans in this election season. Barack Obama and Democratic candidates at all levels are hoping this election will translate into big gains among independent voters, which does not mean that all those independents are embracing Obama or even the chance to make history. Some have other reasons for voting for the first African-American nominee for president, as NPR's David Greene reports.
DAVID GREENE: When you're inside an Obama rally...
(Soundbite of Democratic campaign rally)
Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois; Democratic Presidential Candidate): Believing in the future. Believing we can make it better. Believing that if we work together, there is nothing that we cannot do. That's what this election is about.
(Soundbite of crowd ovation)
GREENE: There's a palpable sense of enthusiasm.
Unidentified Woman: Oh, Obama (unintelligible) I'm out here to support change and Obama for president and early voting and everything...
(Soundbite of country music jam session)
GREENE: But you can also find Obama voters far away from the big crowds, like at this jam session in the mountains of West Virginia.
Ms. CRYSTAL BREWSTER (Amateur Fiddler; Hospital Receptionist): It's where, you know, local musicians get together and play bluegrass and country music and...
Unidentified Man: Gospel and country music.
Ms. BREWSTER: Country music and...
GREENE: Crystal Brewster is an amateur fiddler and a receptionist at a hospital, and she plans to vote for Obama. But you wouldn't know that if you listen to her and her boyfriend, Don Cavell(ph), talk about the Democrat.
Mr. DON CAVELL: How much political savvy does he have? How much does he know? You're looking at...
Ms. BREWSTER: How much does he understand about foreign policy?
Mr. CAVELL: Yes.
Ms. BREWSTER: And the economy? How much does he really understand?
Mr. CAVELL: How much of it has he learned?
(Soundbite of laughter)
GREENE: Are you going to vote for him? I mean...
Ms. BREWSTER: I mean - yeah.
GREENE: Her boyfriend is undecided, but Crystal said she's going with Obama because she doesn't trust McCain on the issue most important to her.
Ms. BREWSTER: That's the thing that won it for me is the health care issue. That's the thing that clinched it for me.
GREENE: It wasn't automatic. Crystal said Obama's plan to offer people the kind of insurance members of Congress have sounds like a pipe dream.
Ms. BREWSTER: If you're flipping hamburgers, you're not going to have the money for that, so you're still out. There's still going to be millions of people without health care.
GREENE: But Crystal said she gives Obama credit for making an effort. Crystal represents the quieter side of the Obama coalition. She's not gung-ho to see Obama in person, and she could have imagined voting for John McCain. But now she's one reason Obama's been polling well in swing states from West Virginia...
(Soundbite of knocking)
GREENE: ...to Ohio, where I spent this past weekend following around some Obama volunteers.
(Soundbite of door opening)
Unidentified Volunteer #1: Hi, how are you?
GREENE: They stopped to chat with people like Linda Paxton.
Unidentified Volunteer #1: Are you leaning one way or the other, or...
Ms. LINDA PAXTON: I'm going to vote for Barack Obama.
GREENE: Linda, who lives in Columbus, said she voted for President Bush twice, then Hillary Clinton in the primary. As for why Obama over McCain?
Ms. PAXTON: It's just a combination of how they come across. And I think John McCain has had a negative attitude toward his whole campaign, which I don't have that attitude toward life. I'm a very positive person.
Unidentified Vendor: What'll you have?
Mr. HENRY BUSICK(ph): I'll try a dozen.
Unidentified Vendor: Take any bag. There's 14 in there for a dozen.
Mr. BUSICK: Well, thank you there.
GREENE: Here at a corn stand in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, Henry Busick was doing some shopping recently.
Mr. BUSICK: My personal opinion is with the condition of the country that it's in the last eight years, I'm not saying that Obama is the answer, but I'm not voting Republican, no way, shape, or form. No way.
GREENE: Henry said he's worried about the national debt growing and all the money being spent in Iraq. It's a mess, he said, that will be difficult to clean up. But he's going to give Obama a chance, at least for now.
Mr. BUSICK: How long is it going to take this economy to come back? And if he doesn't do it, well, I have the right to step in the voting booth and vote him out.
GREENE: There is that impatience from independent voters like Henry who may be voting for Obama but won't hesitate to turn against a new White House if they're not seeing results. The next visitor to the corn stand was Rich Miner(ph).
Mr. RICH MINER: I'm voting for Obama. He's the lesser of two evils.
GREENE: Rich is 68 years old and works at the local sewage authority. He said he's just looking for someone to stop the economy from crumbling.
Mr. MINER: McCain, forget him.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. MINER: That's a carbon copy of what we got. And Obama, I guess we take a chance on him. I mean, he's not too - I mean, he's a rookie, but he sounds good.
GREENE: Rich said he could be wrong about Obama. He's just going to go to the polls and hope he's making the right choice. David Greene, NPR News, Columbus, Ohio.
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