On the Road with the Post

The voters finally meet the press

The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker is into day two of an interesting midterm series: Seven States in Seven Days. The series sees Rucker travelling to seven states in the week before the elections, talking to voters, and producing daily dispatches in both print and in short videos. So far, Rucker’s been to Florida , Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania in what he’s described on his Twitter feed as a dash “across America asking voters what the heck is going on.” To find out, he stopped at a gas station in the Sunshine State, a supermarket in Rhode Island, and a leafy suburban working-class street near Philadelphia. The online hub for “Seven States in Seven Days” includes videos of the journey, written stories, and a map of Rucker’s progress.

We’ve complained a fair bit this election cycle that the national press has talked to just about everyone about races but the voters who ultimately decide them—pundits, aides, each other, yep, but rarely the man on the street who’s so far provided his fair share of surprises. So it’s a good thing the Post has Rucker on the road. There’s nothing too shocking or revelatory here—you’d likely hear much of it over a few beers with a more cantankerous family member—and the one-stop routine hardly provides for a scientific sample. But it’s nice for a change to hear these thoughts coming from actual voters rather relayed to us through a pundit or a poll. Here is a sample of what Rucker has found.

In Florida:

Neil Bartlo, 77, retired lawyer, red Cadillac: “Somebody’s got to live up to the promises. President Obama promised all sorts of things and he failed. Opportunities lost… . I’m sick and tired of false promises. Republicans didn’t deliver when they were in power and they’ll have another opportunity to show that they’ve learned.”

… “We’re splitting apart,” said Jerry Dabkowski, 56, an engineer from Clearwater who was passing through on his way to work. “Everybody’s pointing fingers at one another, both parties, instead of getting down to what the problems are in this country.

“I mean, I just lost my job two weeks ago,” he added. “I’m very fortunate I was able to find another one, but I have a lot of friends who are out of work right now, who are professionals, blue-collar workers, friends in the lower classes - it’s affected us all.”

In New Hampshire:

Charlie Reed, a retired police officer, summed it up like this: “It’s always been dirty, but part of it is I think they’re bringing out a lot more dirt than ever.”

Asked what she thinks about this year’s election, one woman carrying a gallon of milk to her car waved her right hand and said, “They’re all a bunch of idiots. Get to the issues!”

And in ad-soaked Philadelphia he found more disgruntled potential voters.

“The great thing about a remote is if you’re sick and tired of seeing these ads for these political people, after the 10th, 20th, 30th time you can’t watch it anymore, you change the channel,” said Mike, 65, a retired aircraft mechanic who declined to give his surname.

“After a while you can’t tell truth from fiction,” he added from his sunroom, a rolled-up American flag leaning in the corner. “It turns you into a cynic because you don’t know what to believe.”

…Fabre, 54, manufactures motorcycle accessories from his simple stone house. He said he throws away the fliers and tries not to pay much attention to the negative television ads, but acknowledged, “sometimes I find it insulting.”

Nevertheless, Fabre said, “I vote on principles and values, and there’s nothing that’s going to sway my viewpoints.”

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Joel Meares is a former CJR assistant editor.