“Uh oh,” said Dave Bockstanz with a chuckle, checking again to make sure the house was on his list. It was. So he approached, bearing pamphlets touting Republican candidates.
I followed Bockstanz around one recent Saturday morning for a story on get-out-the-vote operations in Pennsylvania, and we came across a man who epitomized a conflicted electorate – and the challenge faced by Democrats in Pennsylvania and across the nation.
Jay Price, 52, came to America from Lagos, Nigeria, about 20 years ago with his wife, following his father, who worked for AIG. They started off in Texas, where Price wanted to work in business. He ditched that to go to nursing school, and now both Prices are nurses in a Lehigh County hospital.
The recession has touched even the medical field, Price said, and his hospital has been shedding jobs and is reluctant to hire inexperienced nurses.
“Today you go to work; tomorrow you don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said. “They are cutting everywhere. It’s hard.”
It’s also hard, he said, to make a choice in this year’s elections. On Price’s kitchen table, he has spread out all the paraphernalia from the candidates. He’s bombarded with television ads and phone calls.
Price describes himself as “very liberal.” He’s still supportive of Obama, and he said he wished there had been a public option in the health care bill. This should be right in the Democrats’ sweet spot – but in the same breath Price describes himself as an independent voter and says he just wants someone who will end the bickering in Washington.
“We vote somebody in, they go over there and they start fighting,” Price said. “It’s not doing us any good, that’s my whole point. If they can put aside the fighting, put the politics aside and say let’s do something for the nation.”
A little cooperation would have helped us out of the economic swoon, Price argued, and is needed to solve the debt problem. Businesses are timid about hiring because they don’t know what’s coming next from their government, and a little bipartisanship can solve it. Both Pat Toomey and Joe Sestak, of course, promise to work across the aisle, but Price doesn’t see it right now as both are launching loads of negative ads at each other.
“Everybody’s just trying to fight for the confused people, fight for the vote, that’s what it is,” he said. “But I remember what Pat Toomey said in the beginning that, ‘I don’t want a negative campaign.’ Both of them are very civil, honorable individuals. They should campaign on the issues that [are] facing Pennsylvania, but all of a sudden you look around and it’s slightly, slightly turning, turning towards the negative side of the campaign. So that is what I see.”
Price still has positive impressions of both men: He knows of Toomey from living in the Lehigh Valley and recalls his run against Sen. Arlen Specter in ’04, noting that since this is his second go-round “maybe he deserves a chance.” Then again, Sestak’s military background and more recent experience in the U.S. House are assets, too.
Neither one has been particularly convincing so far.
“How do we decide?” he said. “That is the hardest point. Do we just go down and vote just for the sake of maybe this guy will do a good job? Or do we just not go at all?”