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Obamination vs. Romnesia 

Throw the bum out? Or four more years?

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In 2008, Linda Harris voted for President Barack Obama. And she’ll probably vote for him again this year, but she’s still not sure. Obama “walked into a mess” and has tried to make the country better, Harris says from the porch of her North Spokane home.

“As far as Mitt goes,” says the 48-year-old law student, “I just don’t know what it is about him. He just rubs me the wrong way.”

Harris doesn’t see the presidential election as some black-and-white bumper sticker choice, but as an option between two not-so-perfect choices. She’s not sure she likes the health care reform Obama signed into law, and she calls the bank bailouts “a bunch of crap.”

“But what he did with [withdrawing soldiers from Iraq] and what he did killing bin Laden is awesome,” Harris says.

“I do have some concerns about what happened with that ambassador,” she adds, referring to the attack that killed Libyan Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. “I think they knew he was not protected, and he should have been.”

Harris is leaning toward Obama mainly because she doesn’t want to upend the recovery the country has been clinging to.

“We’re starting to slowly come out of where we’re at,” she says, “and I’m afraid of putting somebody new in there.”

Harris was one of several voters The Inlander spoke to last week in a North Spokane neighborhood. Near Wellesley and Division, voters on these streets narrowly chose Obama in 2008 over Sen. John McCain. The president earned 372 out of 720 votes cast in this precinct, or 51.6 percent. Whether he’ll do it again is hard to say.

On Nov. 6, voters will go to the polls either to re-elect Obama, a former constitutional law professor, senator and Harvard grad. Or they’ll elect instead Mitt Romney, a Mormon, a former governor and businessman who Forbes estimates is worth $230 million.

The past four years under Obama haven’t been easy. Courtesy of a housing bubble years in the making, the recession that flourished in 2008 left millions of homeowners in financial shambles and sparked a credit crisis that led to a staggering series of layoffs. Fused together, those implosions became the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression.

The crises and Obama’s election also sparked big-ticket legislation: bailouts for the big banks and auto companies, a $787 billion stimulus bill and massively complex financial regulation and health care reform laws.

Meanwhile, political bickering, particularly over the last two bills, has soured many Americans on politics, the two parties and the gridlock of government.

“It won’t be Obama,” says North Spokane resident James Gillum, as he steps outside his house. Gillum, 66, is a retired hardware salesman who voted for John McCain in 2008.

“The guy’s a disaster,” Gillum says of Obama.

Gillum calls the health care reform law “a scam” that the country can’t afford. He says the country needs to be dealing with its debts and deficit spending.

Not that Gillum has lots of good things to say about Romney.

“Do I like him? Not really,” Gillum says, adding, “I think he’ll be a whole lot better for the country than Obama, or any Democrat, really.”

Gillum’s vote will be balanced out by Noble Valsvig, who lives just down the road. An 87-year-old retired toy seller who grew up in Hillyard, Valsvig says he’ll support Obama first and foremost because the president is a Democrat. Valsvig also supports the president’s health care law and would like to see Obama and Congress put forward a big infrastructure bill to fund upgrades to roads and dams.

It’s Congress that rankles Valsvig.

“I’m sad about the way the Republicans have been hanging it up and not doing anything in Congress,” Valsvig says. “I blame it all on the Congress.”

All of that doesn’t make Valsvig too optimistic about a second term for Obama. He thinks the partisan divide in D.C. will continue to hold up any meaningful work.

“Not unless [Democrats] can take over both houses, and I don’t think they’ll do that,” he says.

Is he better off than four years ago?

“We’re getting by,” he says. “We’re not a one-percenters, that’s for sure. We’re not even middle class.” 

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