Monday, 12 November 2012

Times: ‘I can’t believe how close it is’
Tuesday, November 6, 2012 by Bertrand Borg

Among the 169 million American voters playing a part in the presidential contest between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are several with a uniquely Maltese connection.

Their vote will help determine which of the two contenders will win one of the longest, costliest and closest elections in history and become the next President of the United States.

“It really is neck-and-neck, I can’t quite believe how close this election is turning out to be,” said Jasen Ogle, 27, who lives in Qormi with his Maltese wife.

Mr Ogle, who describes himself as a political liberal, voted for incumbent Mr Obama some weeks back after receiving his ballot sheet by post. His vote mirrored his 2008 choice, he said.

“Obama has disappointed me on some issues: he wasted two years of Democratic congressional control, did nothing when AIG spent part of its €170 billion bailout on bonuses and Guantanamo Bay is still open.”

But despite these failings, Mr Ogle felt that the incumbent President was “still the better candidate”.

“I don’t know what Mitt Romney stands for. He’s always changing his mind, or at least claiming to. And his calls for a smaller federal government don’t convince me,” he said.

Florida resident Christine Coleiro, a 52-year-old para­legal, had altogether different voting intentions.

“I’ll be voting for the Romney-Ryan team. I’m a registered Republican because I am a fiscal conservative,” Ms Coleiro said, adding that she was also a believer in “capitalism, small government, a strong military, pro-business policies and indi­vidual responsibility”.

Concerns about the economy, spiralling debt levels and last September’s attack on the US’s consulate in Benghazi, Libya all loomed large in her mind.

She was especially disappointed by the “politically compromised” media coverage of the election, and predicted that the media’s handling of the Benghazi attack would one day “become a movie on the lines of Watergate”.

Further up America’s eastern coast, New York theatre jour­nalist Zach Stewart had pitched his tent firmly within the Obama camp.

Mr Stewart is engaged to Paul Xuereb, a Maltese man who is not yet entitled to vote. He was particularly irked by those who dismissed their gay rights concerns as “single-issue voters”.

“When that single issue is one’s basic legal equality, how could one not be a ‘single-issue voter’?” he asked.

For Mr Stewart, Mr Obama’s words in favour of same-sex marriage were enough to tilt the balance his way. “Justice and equality should never be considered fringe issues in the United States,” he said.

Malta resident but Tennessee native Natalie Hammer was another Obama-phile who had taken advantage of postal voting and voted early.

She described Mr Obama as “realistic, but positive”, adding “he has what it takes to pull the US out of recession and catapult it back to a strong position within the next two years”.

Dr Hammer said she considers herself a political liberal committed to reducing human consumption levels, in line with “degrowth” movement ideals.

Hurricane Sandy had worked in Mr Obama’s favour, she felt.

“I was impressed by the way Obama set aside time to take charge of relief efforts. Human life is more important than political campaigning.”

While Dr Hammer, a doctor and fan of Obamacare, said that healthcare issues topped her list of voting concerns, Mr Ogle was more eager to continue rehabilitating America’s overseas image.

“As an American abroad, domestic issues no longer affect me as much. But people’s perceptions of Americans and America do, and there are still many wounds to heal.”

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