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Undecided Voters Watch Debate In Albuquerque

ARI SHAPIRO, Host:

This is Morning Edition from NPR News. I'm Ari Shapiro.

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning. Our colleague Renee Montagne is reporting from one of the states that may decide this fall's presidential election. She spent last evening at a debate party in Albuquerque, New Mexico. That's a state that went for George W. Bush in 2004 by just a few thousand votes. It went for Al Gore, the Democrat, in 2000 by just a few hundred votes. Now, New Mexico is among the states that could go either way, possibly depending on the decisions of voters like the ones who watched the debate with Renee.

RENEE MONTAGNE: And Steve, this group of 15 undecided voters were undecided, it seemed, because they were taking their votes very seriously. Host Margaret Aragon De Chavez, herself an undecided Democrat because she's not quite over Hillary Clinton, had brought together registered voters from both parties.

MONTAGNE: And I'd like to welcome everybody, and really quickly we have note pads for note-taking. If you want to just write down any information during the debate. You don't have to...

MONTAGNE: Margaret Aragon De Chavez is used to giving political parties. She was once the first lady of Albuquerque when she was married to a three-term mayor.

MONTAGNE: So I think everybody has introduced themselves. So the debates, I think, we have maybe a few more minutes. My clocks are always ahead because I'm always running late!

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MONTAGNE: And so, make yourself at home. This is an important debate.

MONTAGNE: Aragon De Chavez had one main rule, civility. No hooting, no cheering, no groaning, and once it was over, everyone crowded around her kitchen table and offered opinions. Strikingly, a fair number who were leaning towards one candidate moved over last night to the other.

MONTAGNE: OK, Dominic.

MONTAGNE: Now, it was one of the things that was kind of annoying me is he kept bringing Bush, Bush, Bush, and I was like, well, I don't want to hear any more about what Bush did because it's over. He's a lame duck president. You know, what's the solution? How are we going to move forward? And really the only question that I - that was really answered from Obama that seemed clear-cut to me was the one that he had on health care. As far as John McCain though, the thing that really appealed to me about him is his idea of how to bail the housing market out, actually buy the values and renegotiate them. So really, at this point, I'm kind of leaning towards McCain.

MONTAGNE: Dominic Aragon is a student in his late 20s who started a high=tech company. His switch from Obama to McCain was seconded by another young man at the table, and then challenged by a woman in her 30s.

MONTAGNE: I actually heard something completely different than what you guys did in the sense that I thought McCain was pointing the finger a lot. And I did actually capture more solid answers from Obama than I did from McCain, such as like the tax credits that are going to be going on for businesses, for insurance, and his answer with health care, and how it's a right instead of a responsibility, and his priorities kind of align more with mine as far energy, health care and (unintelligible) security, so it's interesting that I heard something completely different.

MONTAGNE: Valerie Quintana is a behavioral health outreach worker for the state. And she said she came in truly undecided. Now, she'll probably vote for Obama. And then, there's Martinique(ph) Chavez who surprised her Democratic mother by registering as a Republican. At 18, she'll be voting for the first time.

MONTAGNE: I've been swaying towards McCain this entire election. And after watching these debates, I've become more undecided because I think that I need to wait till another debate and see and learn more of the facts.

MONTAGNE: In New Mexico, right now, polls show 14 percent of the voters are undecided. That's about twice the national average. Barack Obama does have a five-point lead here over John McCain, but one guest at last night's debate party may well have predicted how long the uncertainty will last. Jim Rivera said he was leaving the party having made a decision and that decision is he still needs more information.

MONTAGNE: So I will be looking and reading and following closely for the rest of the campaign here up until probably the day of voting.

MONTAGNE: In Albuquerque, New Mexico, I'm Renee Montagne. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Renee Montagne
Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.
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