Election 2012: Presidential question gets very quiet answer

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Everyone has an opinion about presidential race, although some appear hesitant to voice it.

By Lisa King

Ever wonder what the people of Shelby County think about the presidential candidates and how the race will go?

Don’t try to Google it. You won’t find an official poll.

Better, you can just wander into some of the county’s cafes and small country stores, where people – well, men – gather to drink coffee in the mornings, and you’ll find out – or maybe you won’t.

“I’m not too crazy about either one of them, but don’t you ask me anything else about that,” Gayle Marston said. “That’s what I go behind the curtain for.”

Marston’s reaction was typical among men having breakfast at Brenda’s Country Caféin Simpsonville on Tuesday morning.

“There’s a bunch of them that comes in for breakfast every morning, and they go on about everything from sports to farming,” caféowner Brenda Ried said, giving a red-checkered tablecloth a swipe with a dishtowel. “This morning they were mostly talking about the storm, but don’t ask them about politics. They’ll clam up on you.”

Tom Wathen, a retired Chevron distributor, did say he preferred Republican Mitt Romney to President Barack Obama.

“I just hope Romney wins, and Obama loses,” he said.

Someone at the table mumbled that Obama does have experience in the Oval office, but Wathen had a quick come back for that.

“Experience? How can he have experience when he didn’t do anything? But he is a good speaker,” he added diplomatically.

On the other end of the county, at B & N Food Market in Bagdad, the small dining room in back cleared out quickly when people were asked their opinions of the presidential race.

All that is, except for J.W. Miles, who hadn’t finished his breakfast.

“Well, I’ve never took much part in politics,” he said around a mouthful of biscuits and gravy. “I usually vote, but that’s about it,” Miles said. “One time I ran for magistrate in this district. That was a long time ago, because I’m ninety years old now. That’s when I found out I didn’t have as many friends as I thought I did.”

Beverly Newton graciously agreed to multitask, and talked about politics while cooking breakfast.

“People around here go on quite a bit about a lot of things, but I haven’t heard them talking about the presidential race too much,” she said. “But then, I don’t pay much attention to what they’re saying anyway, unless they’re hollering for a cheeseburger or something.”

Newton said she is not sure yet which way she will vote.

“Me, I’ve listened to the debates, and I try to keep up with the issues, but I’m still weighing it all in my mind,” she said.

At Carriss Grocery in Southville, a couple of customers, upon finding themselves unable to escape being interviewed because of being blocked in by the store’s potbellied stove, reluctantly sat back down at the table.

“Well, I’ll tell you what I think, but I’m in the minority around here, because this is Republican country around here,” said Ray Armstrong of Taylorsville. “Obama, he’s the only one that’s been helping us for the past four years. He’s the best thing that could have happened for older people. They talk about Obamacare, but I say, Medicare is just as good as it ever was.”

Armstrong, who is retired from the Taylorsville Post Office, pounded on the small table and said, “The only thing is, if the guys that sit in those other seats don’t help him, he’s not going to be able to get much done.”

That sentiment had been echoed by a few other people that morning.

One of them was state Sen. Paul Hornback (R-Shelbyville), but he said that was only partially true.

“The president does have a lot of power. He can veto something he doesn’t agree with, for example,” he said.

Acknowledging that bills do require a majority vote to pass, Hornback said the president can still accomplish a great many things, if he shows strong leadership.

“If we have a leader with a vision and a direction, he can lead them [Congress] in the direction he wants them to go,” he said. “He may not be able to get everything accomplished that he wants, but he can give them guidance.”

When  asked for an opinion about Romney at Carriss Grocery, the other man at the table, who declined to give his name, said “he seems like a pretty smart man to me.”

Armstrong’s response was a chuckle.

“I think he’s a nut,” he said.

Romney, that is.

“We got rid of one four years ago, and now they’re wanting to put another one in just about like him.”