How are undecided Texans gearing up for their presidential pick? This is part two of a series following four voters through the last month before Election Day.
Richard Keller’s kids were out playing with some friends Sunday night. His wife was at a movie. He was alone in his living room, hunkered down, watching Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump debate for the second time. His thoughts?
“This has officially just jumped the shark,” he says. “I mean, I will say Hillary is trying to fight classy, but you’ve got Trump just throwing his poop around like a monkey. This is … I can’t … ugh. Can we, can we, can we skip this year somehow?”
Keller is a salesman from Fort Worth. I asked him and the other undecided voters to record their reactions during Sunday’s debate. And they’re angry – angry at Trump and Clinton, angry at other voters, angry at having to make this choice between these candidates.
For months it’s been clear the two top candidates would be Trump and Clinton, but, for these undecideds, that’s just become more and more frustrating.
Josh Thompson is a home builder from Tyler.
“It amazes me that our two parties nominated these buffoons,” Thompson says. “Really, it just amazes me. I think I told you this last time maybe, that I don’t know a single person in my everyday life, that I kinda work with and associate with, that loves either Hillary or Trump, but somehow those are our two nominees.”
He typically votes Republican but says he can’t stomach Trump. At the same time, Clinton’s policies are a non-starter, especially on energy and the national debt.
“I’ve got a guy who does some work for me, he was telling me he’s going to go vote for Trump. And his reasoning is ‘You know what she is – you don’t know exactly what he is.’ There’s a chance that you could get maybe a better result if you vote for Trump. Not saying that I’m going to go vote for Trump, but more it just resonated with me, just the sadness of this election. That’s how people feel I think in general.”
Even among undecideds who know they won’t vote for him, Trump’s name comes up over and over. And more importantly, he colors their decision-making.
Take Keller again – last week he told me he was trying to choose between Libertarian Gary Johnson and Clinton. He says normally wouldn’t vote for Clinton, but the fact that she’s got the best chance against Trump makes him think twice.
Blanca Morales from San Antonio is in a similar spot. If a different Republican were on the ballot, she’d feel confident picking the candidate who best matches her politics – that’s Jill Stein of the Green Party. But even the possibility of a Trump presidency has her considering Clinton.
“I would hate to vote for somebody and not vote for the person who I think fully aligns with my values,” Morales says. “But, I just started wondering, is there a point to voting for Stein? I guess there is, but I would hate for something to happen and then feel like I just didn’t help the situation.”
The same goes for Dawn Pekar, who will not vote for Trump. She’s from Sweeny, a small town south of Houston, where Clinton gets little support. She thinks that’s partly because Clinton is a woman.
“People my age were surround by that as little girls,” she says. “That yeah, you can do whatever you want, but not this, and not this, and not this. And president sure wasn’t an option. One of these people said – and it’s been 30 years ago – that I think a woman should be a doctor or a lawyer if she wants to but I would never go to a woman. …That was my mommy.”
Pekar rejected that idea. And she challenges people in Sweeny who dismiss Clinton out of hand. That’s one of the reasons this election is such a tough choice for her. She’s not in love with Clinton’s politics or record, but she respects her, and she finds herself defending Clinton all the time. So, bottom-line, who is she going to vote for? Are any of the four undecided Texans any closer to a choice than they were last week?
Keller: “No, not at all.”
Pekar: “I don’t really feel closer, I don’t really feel closer. I will probably still be looking up sites and reading things and watching videos the day of the election.”
“Yeah, I’m still on the fence. It’s going to be really hard for me to go vote for Donald Trump. It really is.”
But for Morales, the picture may be coming into just a little sharper focus: “Right now, I’m leaning toward voting for Clinton.”
But it’s not a choice she’s thrilled with. Right after the debate, she explained her likely pick isn’t so much from confidence in Clinton, but disgust with her opponent’s behavior and rhetoric.
“It’s just really dehumanizing,” she says. “It’s infuriating. And every time I watch these debates I just feel angrier and angrier. And maybe that’s what my vote needs to say.”