Voters In Swing Counties Revisit Election Issues

Nov 9, 2012
Originally published on November 9, 2012 11:46 am

Now that the election is over, Morning Edition is getting back in touch with some voters we met over the summer for our series First and Main. That's when we visited three political swing counties.

Steve Inskeep talks to Jim Meeks and his daughter-in-law Xiomara in Hillsborough County, Florida. Jim supported Governor Romney and Xiomara, President Obama.

David Greene spoke to voters in Winnebago County, Wisconsin. He catches up with farmer Charlie Knigge, who voted for Mitt Romney, and corrections officer Jason Menzel, who voted for Obama.

In Larimer County, Colorado, Renee Montagne met three Latina women at a restaurant called Pueblo Viejo. They were Obama supporters, who were concerned about immigration and education issues. After the election, Renee was able to get back in touch with two of them: Jan Barela and Betty Aragon.

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It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renée Montagne. The days after this year's election have been emotional for many Americans. President Obama met with his campaign staff and shed a tear as he thanked those who backed him through two straight elections.

INSKEEP: Mitt Romney's campaign staff had drinks with the reporters who covered him.

MONTAGNE: On election night, people poured out of bars in Washington D.C. shouting four more years.

INSKEEP: Elsewhere, a disappointed Libertarian blogger publicly resolved that he will never speak again to any of the Democrats in his life.

MONTAGNE: And then there are the many voters in swing states we met during our series First and Main.

INSKEEP: Like Jim Meeks and his daughter-in-law Xiomara Meeks who run the Parksdale Farm Market in Plant City, Florida. Back in August he was supporting Romney. She was supporting the president. And yesterday we called them back. Did you end up having any more arguments along the way?



JIM MEEKS: Daily. We agree to disagree. We're finding something every day to talk about and it gets interesting.

INSKEEP: Well, I'm really interested, Jim Meeks, because when we spoke in the summer you were deeply concerned about a second term for President Obama.

MEEKS: I still am. I really am. Have you heard any program that he's talked about, that he's given information about, how much it's going to cost and where the money's going to come from? All we have is the title. It's like going to a movie and it says, you know, "Gone With The Wind" and then you don't know nothing until you see the end of the movie.

INSKEEP: Xiomara Meeks, what expectations, if any, do you have for his second term?

MEEKS: I think the president is very fair in the sense that he's taking everybody's concerns and trying to meet somewhere in the middle. It will be interesting to see how the Republicans handle this situation again. Are they going to dig their heels or are they going to be willing to meet halfway?

INSKEEP: Jim Meeks, what do you want to see from the Republican leaders who still control the House of Representatives and are still very powerful in the Senate, though they're a minority there?

MEEKS: Well, I would like to see, from them, a cooperative attitude - on both sides. They should and they better get together and compromise and come up with a plan. Because you can't just keep on running a country with no plan.

INSKEEP: Xiomara Meeks? We should remind people, for those who may not recall, that you're from a Puerto Rican family, right?


INSKEEP: I ask that because there's been so much talk since Election Day, about a changing nation, the changing demographics of the nation and the way that minority populations very heavily supported President Obama. I'm wondering if, on either the Puerto Rican or the non-Puerto Rican side of your family, there's been a lot of discussion of that?

MEEKS: Oh, absolutely. I think, for example, my mom. She's always considered herself a Republican. You know, when Mitt Romney was decided as the candidate for the Republican Party, she was really worried. And she actually became an Obama supporter.

INSKEEP: What pushed her away from Mitt Romney?

MEEKS: I think she felt the alienation that she was that 47 percent that he wasn't going to reach. And he didn't reach her.

INSKEEP: Jim Meeks, there's been a lot of discussion the last couple of days about whether the Republican Party should take a different approach to the Latino vote. As a Republican who has different opinions, perhaps, than some of the party about immigration - do you have any advice?

MEEKS: I think it was one of the biggest mistakes that the Republicans made.

INSKEEP: You mean the resistance to immigration reform, as it's being called?

MEEKS: Absolutely. I've heard what Obama said and I don't know whether that's what we need or not, but it's a step in that direction. But if they threw all of the Mexicans out of the United States, or tried to, anyhow, we would have the worst food inflation you have ever seen. And I recognize that. And I don't really know why they don't understand that.

INSKEEP: Well, Jim and Xiomara Meeks, thanks for taking the time, once again, and I hope you have a good winter.

MEEKS: Thank you.

MEEKS: Thank you.

MONTAGNE: Also as part of our series MORNING EDITION's David Greene met Charlie Knigge at a country fair in Winnebago County, Wisconsin. He was leaning toward Mitt Romney then, and in the end voted for Romney, so he's not too happy now.

CHARLIE KNIGGE: A little displeased with the way the election turned out but, I mean, that was the way it worked.

DAVID GREENE, BYLINE: Tell me a little more about how you're feeling.

KNIGGE: Just the overall thought of, I mean, the economy hasn't changed. Maybe it's gotten a little better or stayed the same in four years. And, I mean, gas prices and everything else is up and I was hoping people would realize that. And the way things have gone the last four years, really wasn't the right direction, I thought.

GREENE: If the economy does pick up steam will that be enough to sort of give you a better feeling about President Obama, or are there some other reservations out there?

CHARLES KNIGGE: No. If he can get the economy rolling and get us back on the right foot, I don't have a problem with him. I'm hoping that people can look past their differences now, and work on some of the big issues.

INSKEEP: David Greene also spoke with corrections officer Jason Menzel. He voted for President Obama, though he worried about what he called national health care.

JASON MENZEL: Yeah, I'm still not a huge fan of the Affordable Care Act, but, you know, the thing is that people need it. You know, my grandparents need it, my sister needs it, my parents are probably going to need it within the next 10 years when they're going to be retiring.

INSKEEP: And Jason, when we met, you talked about how bitterly divisive politics had become in Wisconsin, just ripping apart communities, neighborhoods. The president in his speech on election night said that, you know, he wants to try and bring everyone together again. Do you see potential for that to happen now?

MENZEL: Yeah, and no, I guess. I didn't put out any signs this year and so I was able to have decent conversations with my neighbor. Actually, it was probably close to a year since I talked to my neighbor next door. Not all these elections are over. There's potential that people can start working together again.

INSKEEP: That's Jason Menzel, as well as Charlie Knigge, Wisconsin residents from our series First and Main.

MONTAGNE: We ended our tour of America's main street in Larimer County, Colorado, in the city of Fort Collins at a restaurant called Pueblo Viejo. There I met with a group of women, Latinas, all Obama supporters who were concerned about immigration and education issues. We reached two of them to get their reaction to the election results, Jan Barela and Betty Aragon. They're on the phone with us. Nice to talk to you again.

JAN BARELA: Hi, Renee, good morning to you.

MONTAGNE: Hi, good morning.

BETTY ARAGON: Hi, good morning.

MONTAGNE: You are Obama supporters. You must be pretty happy about the results.

ARAGON: Betty here, I'm so ecstatic, I'm just beside myself. Especially, you know, I knew it was going to be a close race, but to see that we got a result, you know, so quickly, we weren't up night long. It was breathtaking.

MONTAGNE: And at the time we talked, your hope was a big voter turnout in the Latino community. Did that happen there in Fort Collins?

ARAGON: I know that, definitely, you know, everyone was doing their part to get the Latino vote out. Certainly, what we saw nationwide, 71 percent of the Latinos, their votes went to Obama, 71 percent. So, you know, definitely, I think that what people need to realize is that Latinos are the fastest growing minority and that we're going to be a force to be reckoned with.

MONTAGNE: Do either of you have in mind a particular scene or moment, something you saw on Election Day, that really struck you?

BARELA: This is Jan. You know, for me, you know, I was at the Democratic Party at the Marriott in Fort Collins and saw this one woman, along with her little children, probably about five or three, and they're in their pajamas and I thought, boy, that's really neat that she's giving them this opportunity to be here. And I just told her, boy, isn't this a very exciting night.

And she got tears in her eyes and she said, you don't know what this means for my family. And she pointed to her three-year-old and said, my little girl has had three open heart surgeries. And I mean, she just - I couldn't really speak. I mean, she just took my breath away.

MONTAGNE: Well, this is a question for both of you, Jan Barela and Betty Aragon. What now? What do you want now from President Obama?

ARAGON: Betty here. You know, definitely for me, for him to be so humble to say on Univision that, you know, his greatest regret was that he was not able to get something moving forward for immigration. And now, I think, is the time that we need to definitely put in something, in place. You know, we have people living in the shadows. We have people living in fear, people that have been here for a very, very long time, that have contributed, that work.

And I want to see a pathway to citizenship for them.

MONTAGNE: That was Betty Aragon and Jan Barela of Larimer County, Colorado, two voices from our series First and Main. Thanks very much for joining us again.

BARELA: Thank you.

ARAGON: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.