TOPICS > Politics

New Mexico Voters React to Final Presidential Showdown

October 16, 2008 at 6:25 PM EDT

JUDY WOODRUFF: We invited eight people — four who support Senator McCain and four for Senator Obama — to watch the debate with us. Then we sat down together in the studios of KNME, the public television station here in Albuquerque.

Leaning toward voting for McCain are: Stephen Dinkel, a student at the University of New Mexico; Margaret Forbes, a realtor; Bill Miera, a small-business owner; and Kim Herron-Singleton, a recruiting manager for a defense contractor.

Leaning toward voting for Obama are: David Archuleta, an attorney; Pamelya Herndon, deputy superintendent of regulation and licensing for the state of New Mexico; Wayne Lucero, a firefighter; and Tracy Canard-Goodluck, an administrator for a Native American charter school.

Thank you all for being with us tonight to talk about what you just heard.

And I’m going to start with you, Steven Dinkel. What did you hear tonight, if anything, that affects the way you view these two candidates?

STEVEN DINKEL, Student: Nothing. They — it’s pretty much the same thing that I’ve heard before. And this has been a long process, and we’ve, like I said, we’ve heard it before.

But what I do like is the way that they delivered themselves. Obama was a little bit more — not too aggressive, so to say, and McCain had to show that aggressiveness, which he did.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Tracy Goodluck, what about you? What did you hear tonight that affected your thinking about these candidates?

TRACY CANARD-GOODLUCK, School Administrator: Well, I still am leaning for Obama and will vote for him, so I think it definitely solidified my opinions on that end. I felt that he seemed to me to want to really address the issues and talk about the issues and keep putting the American people front and center. I did not hear that from McCain.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Margaret Forbes, was that your take on this debate?

MARGARET FORBES, Realtor: Well, I thought it was a much more, I guess I’ll say, genteel debate than the last ones, where they’ve been really bitter and aggressive with each other and not very — it wasn’t valuable, I think, for the whole population.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Wayne Lucero, how did you see it? Would you agree with that?

WAYNE LUCERO, Firefighter: Yes, I would. Obama really talked about the issues, and he said how he was planning on trying to fix them. McCain kind of touched on it here and there.

Voters solidify opinions

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let me come to you, Bill Miera. You came into this leaning John McCain. Did you hear something tonight that affected your thinking?

BILL MIERA, Small-Business Owner: I'm an engineer by training, and so I like to have specifics. And to me, Obama has better presence. He's more articulate, but it's all flash and no substance. And when McCain was asked questions, he had specifics.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Pamelya Herndon, all flash, no substance on the part of Senator Obama?

PAMELYA HERNDON, State Employee: I think that that is not true. We must not have heard the same debate.

I think that Sen. Obama focused on the things that the American people are concerned about. He stayed on tasks with education, with the economy, with health care. And he was very specific about his plan in all of those areas, and he listed exactly what he would do.

As a matter of fact, I heard him say over and over, "This is my plan."

JUDY WOODRUFF: Kim Singleton, where do you come down on who was specific? And what did you hear overall?

KIM HERRON-SINGLETON, Recruiting Manager: I saw from McCain, he finally said, "I am not George Bush." And I see that -- I've seen that consistently throughout the debates and the campaign, Obama referring back to Bush, you know, McCain's just like Bush.

He's not. He's not just like Bush. So that, again, I was almost proud of him for finally standing up for himself.

JUDY WOODRUFF: David Archuleta, I'm coming to you last. Hearing all this, I mean, and what you heard in this debate, did any of it affect what you thought coming in? You were leaning Obama.

DAVID ARCHULETA, Lawyer: I still am. I'm not sure we were all in the same room. I didn't hear everything that everybody else has said.

What I did hear is what Kim just said, is that Sen. McCain finally stood up for himself. It's the first time he's done that.

He's desperate. He has nowhere to go except to now start talking about George Bush and his policies and how he's different.

Up to now, he hasn't made that difference or he hasn't articulated that difference. I'm not sure he accomplished that tonight.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Let's try to bring it back to the debate on that point, because one of the questions tonight was about their vice presidential choice.

KIM HERRON-SINGLETON: I found it ironic -- at the risk of sounding cliche -- that we were asking Senator -- the moderator was asking Sen. Obama about the qualifications of Gov. Palin, was being asked to assess that, when there is question -- and really no doubt in my mind -- that I don't feel that Obama's all that much more qualified, if you will, on paper -- and being a recruiter, I look at paper a lot -- and compare qualifications than Gov. Palin.

DAVID ARCHULETA: Do you really feel comfortable, should McCain die, that Sarah Palin becomes president of the United States? You can't be serious.

KIM HERRON-SINGLETON: I feel that way about Obama, and he's actually running for president.

DAVID ARCHULETA: Yes, but that's the American public...

KIM HERRON-SINGLETON: That's the point. You're telling me...


KIM HERRON-SINGLETON: ... that if something happens to McCain, do I see Gov. Palin -- you know, do I feel that she's qualified? Yes, I do.

Opinions on attack ads

JUDY WOODRUFF: I do want to come back to something that Bob Schieffer brought up, and that was the tone of the campaign, the negativity in the campaign. What did any of you think about that?


MARGARET FORBES: Well, the tone of the campaign on both -- from both parties has been really rather angry, certainly saying things about -- it's like two little boys fighting, you know, rather than two men of stature running for president.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What about on the negative point, two little boys?

Wayne, I haven't heard you for a few minutes.

WAYNE LUCERO: Most of the commercials that I see -- and I don't watch that much TV -- but most of the commercials that I see are of McCain with the negative ads. He's always talking, "Obama voted this way, Obama did this, Obama did that."

Most of Obama's campaign commercials that I've seen is a plan of something. He wants to -- he tells us what he wants to do.

The latest one, you know, he's sitting in a living room or something, and he's telling us how he wants to, you know, get us out of this economic downfall that we're in.

MARGARET FORBES: Sen. Obama's not creating policy in those ads. He's pointing fingers. That's what both of them have been doing. It's really a very unpleasant campaign.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Both pointing fingers?

MARGARET FORBES: We're all tired of it. Let's...

TRACY CANARD-GOODLUCK: Well, I found it interesting that, in the debates -- I'm going to go back to what we watched tonight, the debate -- that McCain -- John McCain was saying â?? Sen. McCain was trying to say that the reason why the campaign has gone so negative was because there weren't these town hall-style meetings.

That's absolutely ridiculous. There were going to be negative campaigns regardless if there were town hall meetings or not.

And I have watched some of those -- the campaign trail of Sarah Palin, and I've heard the crowd screaming, "Terrorist, terrorist." I think that's just...

STEVEN DINKEL: But that's not the view of the campaign.

TRACY CANARD-GOODLUCK: ... it's just horrible.

KIM HERRON-SINGLETON: Yes, I've also heard John McCain stop in the middle just this past week and basically say that he...

STEVEN DINKEL: Yes, in Ohio.

KIM HERRON-SINGLETON: ... he doesn't...

TRACY CANARD-GOODLUCK: His running mate didn't.

MARTIN GEISSLER: Well, neither has -- well, but Obama nor Joe Biden have sat there and really gotten booed by their own people because he was standing up for Barack Obama and basically saying, "That's enough. I mean, you do not do that."

He's a respectable individual. He's a patriot. And he is a decent human being. And John McCain, from his own party, was criticized for doing just that and showing honor.

PAMELYA HERNDON: I do need to make one comment about the negative campaigning. As these campaigns have gone on and on, particularly those that have been driven by Gov. Palin, the excitement and, I would say, what is almost the venom that has been portrayed there is almost like -- I want to say -- it's almost like a lynch mob from the early days.

BILL MIERA: Yes, I guess I'm confused. Explain to me, are you saying that because there's some radical folks at some giant rally that Sen. McCain and Palin have those views, that they're part of a lynch mob? Is that what you're telling me?

PAMELYA HERNDON: I'm saying to you that you can control the way in which your rallies are conducted. And I'm saying to you that there does not appear to be enough effort to control that type of behavior.

Specifics on the economy

JUDY WOODRUFF: Coming into this debate, almost every one of you said you wanted to hear more from these candidates, more specifics about their position on the economy, especially given what's been going on in our financial markets over the last few weeks.

Did you hear in this debate tonight the kind of -- did you get the kind of information you wanted to get?

STEVEN DINKEL: I didn't -- I think a lot of the specifics and a lot of people just -- especially me, I'm not an economy guy, you know, a major, for instance -- so a lot of it was just right over my head.

But I do -- I did like that -- I did hear from John McCain lower taxes. So if you think about it, bring that tax lower, you get more business opportunities inside, the government then makes more money. That's how we can get out of debt.

DAVID ARCHULETA: Obama wants to reduce taxes on 95 percent of the people under, well, on people making under $250,000. When you lower the taxes, it means people have more money to spend, creating a better economy, and that's what we're trying to get at.

But I think what was demonstrated tonight was leadership on the part of Obama, Senator Obama. I think he's got the grasp of the issues.

BILL MIERA: I did hear something that really helped me understand the positions. And, for me, it was pretty scary.

I heard Obama speaking a lot of rhetoric about, "I have a plan and everything." When it got down to the specifics, here's an economic reality. They can't do -- neither of the candidates can do all of their plan for spending, OK.

When asked what you would cut, Obama only had one item, something in Medicare. John McCain had about eight different items, OK?

Just the opposite, what Obama proposed was, OK, in education, we're going to spend more upfront. In health care, we're going to spend more upfront. And you can't tax your way out of an economic downturn, OK? That's what I see.

The only way he's going to pay for those programs is higher taxes, OK? And we've learned that -- if there's anything in history we've learned, you cannot tax your way out of an economic downturn.

PAMELYA HERNDON: What I heard tonight was I heard Sen. Obama say he was going to go line by line through the budget and determine those programs which were working and those programs which were not.

And those that were not working, he was going to get rid of those. That was one way of helping to create more money for the economy.

He also talked about job credit. He also talked about credits for companies that keep jobs in the United States as opposed to shipping them overseas.

So I thought he was very specific about the things that he wanted to do. And those were things that were important to me to stimulate the economy.

Candidates outlined budget

JUDY WOODRUFF: OK, one other -- we're going to let you make the past point here.

BILL MIERA: Real quick...

JUDY WOODRUFF: Somebody has to have to.

BILL MIERA: Going through a budget line item by line item is a classic political non-answer, OK? It says nothing. There's no specifics. All he talked about was investments.

And I agree. We've got to make investments in education. But that's just a classic political non-answer. And it's not what -- it was exactly what confirmed for me that his only plan is, "Let's spend more money."

PAMELYA HERNDON: Judy, you started the program by talking to a McCain person. And I'd like you to end it talking to an Obama person.

And so what I would say as the last word is that to go down line by line, as Sen. Obama stated, to delete those programs that are not producing and are not serving the American people well is a great idea.

So with that, Judy, I think the economy is in good hands with Sen. Obama.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, thank you all very much, each and every one of you, for watching this debate with us and for having this lively conversation. Thank you all.

And I want to finally thank KNME Public Television here in Albuquerque for hosting us this entire week. Thanks to you, as well.

JIM LEHRER: The full discussion with New Mexico voters is on our Web site. Just go to and then, as always, scroll down to NewsHour Reports.