For lifelong Republican, a potential vote for Obama

October 1, 2012

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(WBEZ/Alex Keefe)

Pollsters estimate undecided voters make up a pretty small slice of the electoral pie – just about four to eight percent of Illinoisans expected to vote in November’s elections.

But presidential campaigns spend a lot of time and money trying to reach that tiny group of people, especially in a year like this, when a single-digit margin could decide who wins the White House.

When I ask 37-year-old Kurt Jurgens who he’s thinking of voting for, his answer seems pretty straightforward.

“I would probably vote for Obama,” Jurgens said.

Jurgens works at a non-profit that helps kids with social and behavioral problems. He lives in southwest suburban New Lenox with his wife and five kids.

But Jurgens’ personal politics get a bit more interesting when you consider his voting history: “I have never selected a Democrat for office,” he said. “And I have only missed one primary that I am aware of since I have been 18 years old.”

So what could turn the reddest voter blue?

I put the question to Jurgens, but he’s a pretty introspective guy – so introspective he sometimes seemed to be interviewing himself.

“Do I expect my leaders to have character? Absolutely,” Jurgens said. “Do I think that the Ken Starr investigation into Bill Clinton was ridiculous? Absolutely.”

“It wasn’t just Republicans’ handling of the Clinton sex scandal, Jurgens said. Over the years, he’s says seen the Republican Party shift to the right, while he’s been moving to the center.

So how does he feel about Republican Mitt Romney in 2012?

“Almost a disdain for Romney,” he said, saying he thinks Romney is less sincere than John Kerry — tough talk for a life-long Republican.

He says one of Romney’s main selling points – his private business experience – isn’t convincing, because Jurgens doesn’t think the country should be run like a company.

And Romney’s secretly recorded comments about the 47 percent of the electorate who will vote for President Obama no matter what didn’t help.

"Romney’s 47 percent – is that a gaffe? Absolutely,” Jurgens reflected. “Inarticulate? Absolutely. Ridiculous? Absolutely. Those types of views, once again, push me more towards Obama.”

Still, Jurgens' turn toward Mr. Obama is not absolute. Jurgens says he’s socially conservative and strongly anti-abortion. And that’s where he disagrees with President Obama.

“You know, being that I don’t expect either one of them to address the conservative issues that I hold dear, it then reduces it to the economy,” he said.

So now, for the first time in his life, Jurgens says he’s considering whether a Democrat in the White House is best suited to that task.

But he’s not done asking questions.

"Has it changed in the last four years? Unmistakably,” he said. “Is it for the better? I’m not sure. Could it have been a lot worse? Maybe. Maybe not.”

Jurgens says that kind of dialogue – with his friends, his family, perhaps with himself – will help him make his final decision on Election Day.

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