In Cleveland, Ohio, everyone has an opinion about November 6th. The one thing that people agree on at the West Side Irish American Club, is that Election Daycannot come soon enough.
It’s a cold, wet Friday evening in Olmsted Township, just outside of Cleveland, as hundreds of people gather at the Club for their annual Halloween party.
In the main hall, over two hundred children are dancing along to the live DJ in their Halloween costumes as parents and grandparents look on.
Inside in the main bar area, a hand-carved wooden clock in the shape of Ireland hangs on one side of the bar and an electronic countdown to St Patrick’s Day on the other. Bald Paul and the Irish Blues Band are set up on stage performing ‘Black Velvet Band’.
Mark Owens, one of the 3,000 members of the Club and who was recently naturalized, is looking forward to voting for the first time next Tuesday.
Owens, originally from Derry City, is excited for it all to be over. “The sooner it’s all over the better,” the 35-year-old said.
The election has an impact on Ohio residents’ daily lives.
“You cannot turn on the TV or radio,” Owens said. “There are days you are driving on the highway and it’s shut down because the Presidenthas arrived.”
But in the end, there is still a choice to be made.
“I am going to vote for Obama,” the father of two said.
“A lot of it has to do with the fact that my wife is a mental health therapist. Romney’s plan directly affects the funding of her job.”
The State Farm Insurance Field Specialist said his Democratic ties are related to former President Bill Clinton.
“He’s the one who got me here,” Owens told IrishCentral, explaining that he was awarded a George Mitchell Scholarship, which Clinton helped establish.
In a new wing of the Club, a group of seven friends sit playing cards at a large table. The majority of the group have been members for over 40 years. Their biggest election concerns are the economy, Medicare, and Social Security. The election buzz in Cleveland is nothing new.
John Lackey, originally from Co. Cavan, sums up the election in two words: “dirty politics.”
“The local candidates are tearing each other up and down, calling each other liars,” he said.
One thing the group agrees on is that President Obama deserves another term in office.
“I think most of the Irish favor the Democrats,” Lackey says. “An odd one here or there will vote for Romney.”
Lackey’s wife, Eileen, says their children have different views. “Most of our kids will vote for Romney,” she said.
Maureen Moran, another member of the group, originally from Mayo, said she was surprised to see their church turning on Obama.
“When we came out of Church last Sunday, they had a letter there saying you are not to vote for Obama,” she said. “I don’t know who put it [there], but I didn’t like it.”
The entire group agrees that spending billions of dollars on a Presidential campaign is ridiculous.
“They have spent more money on this election, and people are starving around the world, including the United States,” Cavan native Anna Quinn added.
Back in the main hall, the live music has stopped as lifelong member of the club, Eileen Maloney, chats with friends at a table.
When asked about her political affiliation, she said with conviction, “I am as far away from an Obama supporter as you can get.
“I find it shocking that all of these people will support him, because I am tired of people telling me that abortion is just one issue. It is a major issue.
“I could think of a lot of people I would rather vote for,” she admits, but on November 6th, Mitt Romney will be her choice.
The second-generation Irish American said the values of the Democratic Party that her parents taught her to endorse have drastically changed.
She reflects: “I don’t know what has happened to this country.”
Maloney says her religious beliefsare her biggest concern in the upcoming election.
"For a long time I would have said it was the economy, but recently I think we are at a point in this country, where religious freedom is coming under fire.
"I have to laugh, during the last election, there were priests promoting Obama from the altar and now it has pretty much turned around and bitten them in the ass."
Irish American Roger Weist, host of local radio show Beyond the Pale, says that while many Irish Americans favor President Obama, many have strong Republicans ties also.
“There are many people that aren’t as trusting of the current administration,” he said. “There’s a lot of Romney support in the Irish community.
“There are a lot of conservatives and business people who believe the economy needs to be run by a businessman.”
Weist agrees with fellow club member Mark Owens that Election Day cannot come soon enough.
“[Ohio is] the center of the political universe. Every time you turn on the TV, all you hear are political ads,” he said. “You’re inundated with information on candidates of every political party persuasion.
“Everybody seems to be telling untruths. You don’t know who’s saying what and the lies make you crazy.”
The radio host believes the accusatory tactics employed by candidates throughout the debates prevents voters from making an informed decision.
“Talk about what you want to do, not about his character, because I will make a decision on the character based on what is being proposed.”
As of now, Weist, a lifelong Democrat, who describes Bill Clinton as a hero, is still undecided.
“There are some things that have been bothering me about Obama. I see them both as two evils,” he said, concluding, “I am going to give it another week.”
In a private room of the club, a group of men are playing 25, a Friday night tradition that has lasted 30 years. They joke about letting President Obama join their weekly game.
“If he came here and bought us a couple of pints, we might let him play.”
When asked who they will vote for, one of the men scowled.
“Oh we cannot tell you that,” he dismisses.
Despite their reluctance to share their votes, they’re all looking forward to the end of the intense media focus on their home state.
“There’s nothing but commercials. Nobody wants to listen to any of them,” one of them states.
“It’s all about Ohio.”
“Alright, deal them up!” another commands, as their brief focus on the election shifts back to their weekly ritual.
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