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Florida Super Tuesday

Florida elections. Just the mention of the phrase can send shivers down the back of political activists or hobbyists, remembering 2000’s debacle. Anyone who forgot about that–or blocked it all out–can refer to Greg Palast for a refresher course.

So a vote in Florida just wouldn’t be a vote without some drama, right?

This time, it’s a battleground for the Republicans, where John McCain and Mitt Romney are slugging it out and Rudy Giuliani is gasping for breath.

Giuliani hung most of his hopes on Florida, choosing to cede the other early states to his rivals and focus on Florida and Super Tuesday. Though he spent money in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, you’ll hear over and over again that he didn’t really “compete.” He’s got no cover in Florida–everyone knows he’s “competing” there.

As for the Democrats, supposedly nobody is competing in Florida, just as in Michigan. This time, however, all three major candidates are on the ballot. They have pledged not to campaign there, though Hillary Clinton has already scheduled an appearance on Election Day.

This is creating some friction among the Democrats. No one likes the idea that Michigan and Florida delegates won’t count, but no one likes the idea of changing the rules on the race while it is so close.

In keeping with the Democrats’ promise not to campaign in Florida, we have an interview with a Republican voter from Connecticut on his choice for his party’s primary. Jeff Marsick is a quantitative analyst in finance–don’t ask me what that means, it goes way over my head–and a supporter of John McCain.

Kaffeine Buzz: Connecticut is just one of the Super Tuesday states, so you probably haven’t seen a lot of the candidates. How have the ads and the campaign presence been? Have you gotten phone calls, etc?

Jeff Marsick: Honestly, the ads haven’t been too bad, but the credit for that probably goes to my TiVo. I catch my required viewing days after airing, so other than stopping to catch movie trailers, I pretty much zip through commercials. I have gotten mail from the McCain and Clinton campaign as well as the Republican party, but those go straight to trash without even being opened. And telephone pitching? Yeah, I don’t let it get any farther than “I’m with So-And-So, how are you tonight?” Can you tell I have no patience for political marketing? I prefer to make up my own mind given what I can read, not what I’m force-fed.

KB: What kind of research have you done on the candidates? Websites, books–you mentioned Obama’s book, any others?

JM: I read Audacity of Hope which didn’t impress me. I thought it was very superficial. Unfortunately, my research into candidates is limited by the bias inherent to each news source I read: NY Times, Wall
Street Journal, etc. Every one can’t lay just the facts on the table without a certain amount of spin or tone added to it. The Christian Science Monitor is probably the most neutral I’ve found, interestingly enough.

KB: I think that with the advent of the campaign website, we see a lot less of the “issues” being discussed on the stump and a lot more rhetoric there, while the issues are relegated to the web. Having read EVERY candidate’s website, I can say that some are definitely better than others. What’s been your experience with the candidates’ web presence?

JM: Wow. You’ve read EVERY website? I’m impressed. I’ve only read a few. What’s there to say? They’re propaganda pieces for each candidate and of course they’re going to paint their titular character in a Great Hope sort of way. It’s the blogs written by economists and political pundits and soldiers and John and Jane Q. Public that poke holes and find chinks in armor (and are much less dry to read) that are more thought provoking. I actually think that it’s the blogosphere that has much more impact, positively, on what I think about a candidate than their website.

KB: How many primaries have you voted in?

JM: I’ve never voted in a primary before.

KB: How is the turnout usually in your area?

JM: I think the turnout is pretty good for this area. Southern CT seems to have a lot of interest and hands-on activity in politics at all levels. People are pretty vocal and not very shy about the horse they’re backing.

KB: Who are you planning to vote for?

JM: John McCain.

KB: Did you vote for him the last time he ran?

JM: I did not. I didn’t think his gameplan was well thought out last time.

KB: Which issues draw you to him? Are you a committed supporter or a recent convert or is he just the least of the evils?

JM: This is a great question and one of the problems I have with the past couple of elections. I think they HAVE been nothing more than choosing the least worst candidate, which to me isn’t voting. That diatribe aside, I’m a Republican, so I’m more drawn to the red candidates, although I’ll vote for whoever I think has the best skills to lead this country whatever party they’re members of.

Being a former military officer, though, I believe that the best Commander in Chief is someone who has served. Someone who has spent time in uniform understands–or at least I would like to BELIEVE they would–and is therefore a little more judicial in sending our forces into conflict in a foreign land. I also like McCain’s hard stance against the pharmaceutical industry in trying to lower the astronomical costs of prescription drugs for the thousands of patients who need them and can’t afford them.

KB: When you say more judicious about sending our troops to war, do you mean with Iran? Would you have them rethink the war in Iraq, if we could go back to 2003?

JM: I mean anywhere. There are a few growing hotspots around the globe that may require our attention, if ot the UN and NATO. Iran is certainly at the fore, but there are other regions that may grow to be challenges for the US.

Would I have them rethink the war in Iraq? Hindsight is always perfect, and I believe, given the evidence that was laid bare–whether or not you believe it was real or imaginary–at the time, and with emotions still running hot from 9/11, I think the same decisions would have been made.

I think the only difference is that a better strategy would have been in place than simply putting force on the ground and being relatively sure that it would all come together under a neat little bow. Sure, the intelligence community got suckered by the whole Rafid Ahmed Alwan episode (that even had pulled wool over German intelligence), but I think Iraq was mostly a knee-jerk reflex. It’s human nature. You get punched in the face, you don’t just take it and walk away. You find someone to hit back to show the spectators that you’re not a pushover,
that you’ve got spine enough to hit back.

KB: Do you have a second choice candidate?

JM: Ooh. Ouch. My second choice was Fred Thompson. Seriously, if Mayor Bloomberg throws his hat in the ring as an independent, I’ll have to do some serious rethinking. As an aside, let me throw this out there: if Obama gets the Democratic nod….watch him take Bloomberg as his running mate. You heard it here first.

KB: If you had to switch parties, who would you vote for?

JM: Another good question. I’d have to say Edwards. For me, he’s the least worst of the three. Hillary is too polarizing and I’m annoyed by the fact that she’s been leaning so hard on Bill to coach her through her playbook. I think when push comes to shove she’s not a “The buck stops with me” kind of leader; I think she’s more of an “expend as much time and money as needed until we have a person to blame” type. Barack’s inexperience works against him, as does the fact that I’ve not once heard him give an actual plan for how he’s going to fix things. I read his book, where he was very good at pointing out what’s WRONG with this country, but never said what he would do to fix it. His campaign has been much of the same.

KB: How positive are you feeling about this election?

JM: I’ve never been so interested in an election before! Seriously, it’s almost like a professional spectator sport. The party nominations are too close to call as you know, and not having a clearcut standout on either side I think is making it hard for people to get excited about voting day. Not to keep harping, but it’s back to that picking the least worst person concept. I have a few friends who plan on golfing that day and skipping the booths entirely.

KB: Do you think the candidates in both parties are actually addressing issues that matter to you?

JM: No. I think all of the candidates at this point are driven by the dictates of their parties. RIght now they’re preening and posturing to get The Nod to lead their team to the promised land and are following a script to give the American public what they THINK the public should feel is important.

The Republicans have cut back on their fear rhetoric, which was distracting last time, but they still need to put more focus on domestic issues: the economy, the education system, and improving the health care system for our aging population. And someone, ANYONE, needs to stop with this “I’m the person for the job” and “I can fix this” and actually TELL us what their plan is. Please. Anyone?

KB: You mention that the Republicans are ignoring the domestic sphere–why do you think they do that? It seemed to be tough for them to find campaign issues to talk about in Michigan, where the economy was the number-one concern.

JM: According to the latest polls, the economy has apparently taken the top spot in campaign issues, where last year it was the Iraq War. What I liked about McCain in Michigan was that he said that while he would do what he could, he conceded that there were going to be jobs that just wouldn’t be coming back. No false hopes of waving a wand and poof! Everyone’s all better now. He took a more realistic stance, which is commendable when all the candidates seem to be about telling the public what they WANT to hear.

KB: As someone who works in finance, what do you think of the candidates in both parties’ statements on possible recession?

JM: Ah, the dreaded ‘R’ word. Pick up a paper today and the headline will trumpet someone’s soundbite that we’re not in a recession. The market will go down a hundred points and tomorrow the headlines will shout another soundbite about how we ARE in a recession. Economists can’t (or maybe won’t) come to a concensus, neither will business leaders, so how can candidates?

Personally, I don’t think any of the candidates know what to do about it if there WAS a recession. I think they’re hoping that the Fed’s monetary policy will be enough to keep possible recession in check. I say that because I’ve not heard anything in anyone’s rhetoric (from either side) giving a clear and concise plan in case of the event. They seem to rally aroundthe current $150 million economic stimulus plan that is up to Congress to approve in February as the panacea for what ails us.

KB: From your point of view, what’s wrong with American politics today?

JM: How much time do you have? Lobbyists are one: how can a person run a campaign that requires the fuel of an egregious amount of dollars from donations remain objective?

As a for instance, look at the amount of money that has been contributed to Hillary’s campaign from the pharmaceutical industry and from health care practictioners (it’s public information and easily sussed out on the internet; Hillary is the largest beneficiary of these two sectors). Knowing that, how can Hillary be taken seriously when she says she is going to stand tall against the pharmaceutical giants?

Another thing wrong with American politics is that ineffectual collection of do-nothing salary collectors we call a Congress. The election process is in need of an overhaul, too. Oh, and that two-party system? Yeah, that needs to go the way of parachute pants.

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