Likely Voters Give Their Impressions of Kerry After His Nomination Speech
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SPENCER MICHELS: Thank you all very much for being here. Jim Zemlin, let me start with you. You are registered as a Republican but you are undecided in this election. What did you see in this Democratic Convention that influenced you?
JIM ZEMLIN: It’s interesting you know it’s so scripted, it’s difficult for me to say with all the scripting if it’s really changed my mind either way at this point. I don’t think so. And for me it’s not really about a referendum on Bush. It’s whether or not Kerry is a suitable alternative.
SPENCER MICHELS: Any hints if Kerry is a suitable alternative?
JIM ZEMLIN: Tonight, I think for the first time he appeared presidential to me. I think his speech was really well done. I think he delivered it very effectively. But again, I think he glossed over issues, and didn’t go deep in to areas like health care and so forth. Things that I was looking for and didn’t see.
SPENCER MICHELS: Edwin Stephens, you are a Democrat, but you are undecided. What did you see in this convention?
EDWIN STEPHENS: Democrat, small “D.” I lean more towards an independent. I’ve been looking at John Kerry. I’ve been looking at George Bush. And John Kerry’s speech actually made me think that he could be president of the United States from that performance. However, what he does from this point on in the campaign, he had the passion. And that’s what I’ve been looking for. Can he deliver the vote, is another thing.
SPENCER MICHELS: Leigh Abresch, you’ve been listening to this and you are also undecided. What did you see?
LEIGH ABRESCH: Well I think John Kerry tries to capture patriotism as a theme and honesty and morality. And those are fine ideologies, but I want more specificity on what he plans to do, especially outsourcing of jobs. I want to know how his tax changes are going to affect me. I think that this particular convention is very low on specifics.
SPENCER MICHELS: Mike Swelstead, you voted for Ralph Nader in the last election. Did you see Kerry tonight as presidential?
MIKE SWELSTEAD: I did, I saw little flashes of it there. I liked some of the points that he touched on, the “liberal patriotism,” I think he said, I liked. I liked how he kind of stayed to the left a little bit, ideas that I prefer and I like.
SPENCER MICHELS: You think you are leaning in that direction as opposed for voting for Nader or the Green Party candidate?
MIKE SWELSTEAD: Well, I do want to show my support for third party system. There are a lot of similarities between the Republicans and the Democrats right now. A lot of differences, too.
SPENCER MICHELS: You want to show your support for the third party system, but do you do it by voting for Nader or do you…?
MIKE SWELSTEAD: I would, I would.
SPENCER MICHELS: You think you will?
MIKE SWELSTEAD: Well, I don’t know. It’s really important this election. There’s a lot at stake, more so than just the next four years I think.
SPENCER MICHELS: Lu Ryden, you are all the way for Bush. You are a long time Republican supporter. What did you think watching this Democratic Convention?
LU RYDEN: I think he gave the speech that they wanted to hear and that was no negativity and really get out there and say all these nice things. But when you say all these nice things, you got to follow them up. I keep thinking of him as the number one liberal in Congress, and I think of him as being on the Intelligence Committee. And he knew all the information Bush knew, and yet he did nothing about it.
SPENCER MICHELS: He talked about not wearing his religion on his sleeve.
LU RYDEN: Oh, yes, I don’t think Bush wears his religion on his sleeve. I think what the media does is put it on his sleeve. He’s a man who has a deep faith, and I admire a man who has that. I believe in Bush’s social issues, and they are exactly the opposite when it comes to Kerry.
SPENCER MICHELS: So there is nothing Kerry could ever say that could convince you to vote for him?
LU RYDEN: No, especially after all that I’ve been reading about him. And I don’t read just Republican information.
SPENCER MICHELS: Iris Winogrond, you are a Democrat, you are as Democratic as Lu is Republican. What did you get out of this convention? What was the message and did they get it across?
IRIS WINOGROND: From my perspective, the party did a good job of getting the message across. They were centered.
SPENCER MICHELS: As a staunch Democrat watching this convention, were you disturbed that perhaps they soft peddled many of the issues you probably like?
IRIS WINOGROND: Well, I really watched this convention. So I got to hear Al Sharpton. He didn’t soft peddle anything. I got to hear Barack Obama, no soft peddling there.
SPENCER MICHELS: Jeff Wheeler, you are a Bush supporter and a Republican. Did you see anything in Democrats that softened your view?
JEFF WHEELER: I thought it was a great convention. It was warm, feel good and I started getting lulled in, and then I started realizing, wait a sec — nothing adds up. I’m first and foremost, I’m a finance guy. And I heard we are going to not send the National Guard in to Iraq, we’re not going to extend enlistments, but we’re going to have more troops on the ground. That doesn’t add up.
We’re going to have universal health care, more money for education, inspect all the ports, I forget all the other things he promised. Oh, and we’re going to cut middle class taxes. It doesn’t add up. You know, for once I would like to have somebody stand up and say, there’s a lot of things we want, maybe we can do some of them, we can’t do all of them.
SPENCER MICHELS: Marta Bookbinder.
MARTA BOOKBINDER: You haven’t forgotten me.
SPENCER MICHELS: No we haven’t forgotten you. You are a long time Democrat, but you are interested in foreign affairs as much as Jeff is. What did you think of this convention?
MARTA BOOKBINDER: I actually felt like the convention delivered something that has been missing for all of us in America, which is the message that we can do it — instead of the negative, the positive. We have been divided too long. As a divided nation, whether it’s in foreign affairs or anything else, we are weak. And I think we need to be together.
LEIGH ABRESCH: But how do you think a president, even a president like John Kerry, how does he brings everybody together? That’s the mystifying part to me. They speak about it, they rally around it, but how do they do it? I want to know what they are going to do. Tell me. Sit down and tell me.
JIM ZEMLIN: You know, even on the issue of war in Iraq, all I hear is we get our allies to come together. You know, I travel a lot on business abroad, and you know, a lot of politicians abroad have centered their campaigns on being against the war in Iraq. How are they going to do it? I wanted to hear that tonight and I didn’t hear it.
SPENCER MICHELS: You wanted specifics, exactly?
JIM ZEMLIN: Yeah, more than we are going to bring our allies together, we are going to support our troops.
SPENCER MICHELS: Iris, what about that question?
IRIS WINOGROND: I think you have to trust that with new leadership and some wisdom in there… one thing that struck me was the fact that Kerry said “I want to ask hard questions and I’m looking for hard answers.”
SPENCER MICHELS: Did we hear enough about Iraq in this convention?
LEIGH ABRESCH: No, we did not.
SPENCER MICHELS: No? Why not?
LEIGH ABRESCH: Well one of the things that would make me vote for… not make me vote for President Bush, is the war in Iraq. I don’t think we should be there. I don’t think we ever had any right to be there, as much as I don’t like Saddam Hussein, and I don’t like the atrocities committed, I don’t think we had a right to do what we did. I’ve never saw any evidence to that effect. I still have 9/11 very much in my mind.
JIM ZEMLIN: I wanted to see him say “we are going to commit.” Not talk about you know leaving France and Germany to come in help. But are we really going to stick. I didn’t hear that strong enough. I just heard vaguery.
JEFF WHEELER: Quite frankly if we are going to run our foreign policy to please the French, we might as well not have one.
SPENCER MICHELS: Edwin, how do you feel about all this?
EDWIN STEPHENS: Well I’m definitely pro- American. I’m from a military family, my father served 23 years in the Air Force, and I believe in a strong national defense. And I’m certainly not one who thinks the president should base the economics… I mean, the security of the United States based on the whims of other nations.
SPENCER MICHELS: Do you think… you say you are pro-American. Didn’t this convention try to persuade all of you that the Democratic Party was as pro- American and as patriotic as the Republican Party?
EDWIN STEPHENS: Yes.
LEIGH ABRESCH: But that’s nothing new. All of us are pro-America, we are all patriotic. I think that’s just the political platform take on how to appeal to all of us.
JEFF WHEELER: I agree there probably that it’s a pro-American party, and yet when they say one thing, and you know behind the scenes that 80 percent of the party believes something different. They want what is best for the country, but by God can’t they just come out and say what they really think instead of wrapping it up in soft pastel color gauze.
SPENCER MICHELS: Marta, 80 percent of the people don’t believe that in the Democratic Party?
MARTA BOOKBINDER: I don’t agree, I don’t agree. And you know, in a convention you should really strive to your highest ideal, and that’s why I think they kept bringing up the ideals. The whole thing about John Kennedy and calling to action and service and all that.
SPENCER MICHELS: Lu. Lu go ahead.
LU RYDEN: That’s what gets me, that he’s taking the center of road for the convention. But before that, as you know he’s one liberal, and so is Edwards, number four liberal. They are saying let’s wrap this convention up and look centrist. I mean, that’s what Clinton did that, too.
SPENCER MICHELS: Let’s talk just a little bit about the economy. What did you want to see the convention come, say about the economy and what actually came out of it.
EDWIN STEPHENS: Well, there wasn’t really a lot that was discussed about the economy in terms of specifics. There was a general overview “we will have jobs. We will create jobs.”
LU RYDEN: What I heard was negative — that the economy was in the pits. You’d think we were in the Depression in the 1930 or something. I didn’t see anything about how the economy how it was going to better. Right now the economy is on the way up.
SPENCER MICHELS: Jim?
JIM ZEMLIN: I disagree. I don’t think they painted a negative picture of the economy. I think people were very bullish on that to some degree. My concern was sort of a class warfare theme that I got. You know, “tax the rich, give to the poor.” You know, I’ve started businesses and taken risks and had some success. And that kind of concerned me listening to Kerry and other people speaking to have this kind of class warfare theme throughout.
SPENCER MICHELS: Class warfare, Marta?
MARTA BOOKBINDER: Yes, and I think that it is a reality, we are talking about a reality here. People do not have jobs.
JEFF WHEELER: I think the economy is clearly on the upswing because if it wasn’t there would have been a lot more focus on it. The point is Kerry’s going to pay for all kinds of things by raising taxes back to the Clinton level. The numbers don’t add up.
SPENCER MICHELS: The one issue that got talked about over and over and over again was unity, was bringing people together. Did this convention, even though it talked about that, did it really bring any unity closer or are we as divided as many of these speakers said we are?
MIKE SWELSTEAD: From someone on the left like me, I thought he might have… Kerry might have tried to unify a little bit of the left to the center there I believe — talking about health care access for all Americans, um talking about health care access for all Americans; talking about accountability for the war in Iraq. I think he was reaching to the left a little bit.
SPENCER MICHELS: Jim, unity?
JIM ZEMLIN: I don’t know, I’m going to call up the other four or five undecided voters and ask them what they think. I’m still undecided.
SPENCER MICHELS: I’m afraid we’re going to have to leave it there. I want to thank you all very much for being with us.
GROUP: Thank you.