Monday, October 27, 2008

Republicans bracing for an Obama victory

DANVILLE — With a mixture of defiance and trepidation, Republican voters in Danville appear to be coming to terms with the possibility that the GOP will lose their eight-year grip on the White House.

In this island of conservatism amid a sea of progressive Contra Costa County communities, more than a dozen Republican voters talked of awaiting an outcome they believe has been preordained by a "liberal" media that's rooting for Democratic nominee Barack Obama over Republican nominee John McCain.

For many, hostility toward Obama is paramount as they head to the polls in a little more than a week, rather than an affinity for McCain. Doubts raised by the McCain campaign about Obama's character and associations — and even his religion — have created a climate of apprehension among some Republicans in the race for the presidency.

Dwain Henry, 76, of Alamo, said he's "very fearful" that Obama will win, though he hopes "people will come to their senses and realize what's going on."

Voters don't understand the extent of Obama's "childhood as a Muslim" and how it would influence his actions in the White House, said Henry, a retired home furnishings manager.

"I just don't feel safe with Obama, with his background and religion," said Henry. "I guess I'm a little prejudiced. I'm afraid of the way he may lean after he's president. He'd favor that type of religion."

Obama is Christian, but some critics continue to try to Advertisementpaint him as a Muslim, pointing to his childhood years living with his mother and stepfather in Indonesia, where he attended a Muslim school from 1967 to 1971 — not a Madrassa, the radical Muslim schools, as some conservatives have asserted.

Some, like 61-year-old Shari McMorrow, are outraged that Obama's associations with former weatherman William Ayers and his former pastor the Rev. Jeremiah Wright haven't gained more traction among voters.

"I'm discouraged that Americans aren't more concerned with the complete lack of record and experience on Obama's part and am really concerned with issues of his background and character," said McMorrow, a homemaker who helps out at her friend's clothing store. "The really unsavory people Obama has chosen as mentors and friends over the years really makes me wonder who this man is. I don't think Americans know. They're too susceptible to rhetoric and promises of being given money."

McCain should have pressed the attack earlier than he did, said Barbara Williams, 77, of Walnut Creek, in showing Obama's associations with Ayers and ACORN, the group of community organizations under fire for turning in phony registration cards. The group has said it was required by law to turn in the cards, and the group called attention to the faulty registrations to election officials. Obama served on the same school reform board as Ayers, a University of Chicago professor who has been linked to the bombing of the Pentagon and other government buildings in the 1960s. And Obama once represented ACORN as an attorney seeking to ensure motor voter laws were being followed.

"Too little, too late," said Williams, a retired saleswoman who has already voted for McCain with an absentee ballot. "It's just crooked. People not old enough to register are going to vote. McCain should have come out stronger in the first two debates on that. It's rather depressing."

Bill Deitsch, 77, of Danville, who agreed that McCain should have taken the attacks to Obama earlier, worries the country will be saddled with a liberal president and a liberal Congress.

"I think Obama will win, much to my chagrin," said Deitsch, a retired electronics operations manager. "I just wonder if he is what he says he is. I think he's a socialistic-thinking individual, and though we're not a socialist country yet, we're moving in that direction and he'll sure enhance that effort."

Mike Nelsen, 39, of Lafayette, said he remains hopeful that McCain will win, but he's worried that his taxes will be hiked if he doesn't.

"I happen to be middle upper class and I'm fearful of my taxes being raised and the money not going in the right direction," said Nelsen, a salesman, who added that McCain's choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin didn't help his cause. "It came out of nowhere. It hurt him because of her lack of exposure and experience."

The Palin choice made it more difficult for Alan Brown, 67, of Danville, to cast his absentee ballot for McCain.

"There were so many other possibilities that would have been better for his running mate," said Brown, a retired district manager for a high-speed printing operation. "Now, McCain and Palin are doing nothing but ranting and raving about Obama. They should be talking about what they're going to do versus what Obama may not be able to do."

Some Republicans said McCain's choice of Palin turned them against him.

"When Palin first came, I thought, 'cool,'" said Rebecca LeClere, 25, of Walnut Creek, who works as a hairstylist in Danville. "Then she kept talking and it went down. It scares me that (McCain) is old and that she'll be running the government with such little knowledge. It really scares me to think we might be left with Palin."

Others said that McCain would have had difficulty no matter who he'd chosen, given the economic conditions, the Iraq war and historic low approval ratings of President Bush.

"McCain's given his best shot, but I don't know if he's had the best technical strategy," said Frank McCullough, 55, of Danville, who works in property management. "His handlers were not as adept as Obama's. The thing that bothers me most about Obama is that he's dividing the country, saying he's going to take care of 95 percent of the people, and not the other 5 percent. All it does is create a class conflict."

Republicans seem reticent to trumpet their allegiance to McCain, said Julie Langill, 47, of Danville, who said she notices more Obama bumper stickers around this reliably conservative town than those for McCain.

"I have a McCain bumper sticker on my car and somebody came to me and said 'good for you,'" said Langill, a stay-at-home mom. "I was like, 'what does that mean?' It's like I'm brave to put it on?"

Langill said she's trying her hardest to convince friends to vote for McCain.

"All I can do is hope and tell people, without offending, how afraid they should be and what they should consider," said Langill. "I'm hoping, but I'm bracing myself because there's nothing I can do besides that."

One Republican would not speak on the record, but said she's voting for Obama — though all her customers and friends thinks she's voting for McCain. Some have dubbed that the reverse-Bradley effect, in which Republicans tell pollsters they're voting for McCain, but once in the privacy of the booth, will vote for Obama.

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