NORTH CANTON, Ohio – Republican primary-goers who voted at the Church of Christ here Tuesday afternoon are undoubtedly passionate about the notion of defeating President Obama in the fall.
But when it comes to the field of GOP presidential contenders, they’re decidedly less so.
“I just don’t think that there’s any outstanding frontrunner of the candidates on the Republican ticket,” said Bob Morton, a 68-year-old retiree from North Canton.
Both Morton and his wife, Cheryl, had been deciding between former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former senator Rick Santorum. They ultimately opted for Romney.
“He’s the best chance of representing the Republican Party in the fall,” Bob Morton said, adding that he believes Romney is also the candidate most capable of getting the White House, Senate and House of Representatives to work together and “get back on board with what’s reality.”
Phil Rosenik, a 62-year-old retiree from Plain Township, had been deciding between Santorum and former House speaker Newt Gingrich. Romney was never in the picture, he said.
“He seems to be leaning [to the right], trying to please the more conservative vote,” Rosenik said of Romney. “I’m not sure where his heart is. I’m a little bit concerned about that.”
He ultimately chose Santorum, mainly due to his stance on social issues, although he noted: “I know the economy’s a big issue, and Santorum is not as strong on that.”
Is Rosenik more excited about ousting Obama than about casting a ballot for Santorum?
“I’d probably have to go with that – more excited about Obama out of office than Santorum in office,” he said. “I’m afraid we’re going too socialistic.”
Also casting a ballot for Santorum was Jen Reneker, a 36-year-old professor from Canton. She had been deciding between Santorum and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), but ultimately Paul’s position on foreign policy pushed her toward Santorum.
What about Mitt Romney?
“I just don’t think that he is going to stand for conservative values if he’s elected,” she said.
“I think he’s definitely a strong man, but once again, I don’t know if he’s going to be a conservative.”
Asked whether she’s more enthused to vote for Santorum or to oust Obama in the fall, Reneker said that she’s “probably more excited about Obama not being in office -- obviously, I’m not a liberal and I don’t agree with his position on social and international stances.”
In this precinct just north of Canton, a steady stream of voters turned out to cast their ballots Tuesday afternoon.
The polling place sits in a prosperous neighborhood a few blocks down the street from a Catholic university. Just a few miles down the road, the signs of Canton’s struggling economy are ever present: payday lenders and boarded-up storefronts abound, and convenience stores advertise, “We accept food stamps.”
Most voters cited the economy and the debt as their top issues. But there was a noticeable lack of enthusiasm about the GOP field – and even some voters who cast a ballot here for Paul were of the less-passionate variety.
Tim Kell, the president of a painting and decorating company here, said that he decided in the voting booth to cast his ballot for the libertarian-leaning Texas congressman.
“I’m not really thrilled with any of them, so I just figured I’d vote for Ron Paul,” said Kell, 50. “From what I’ve heard about him and everything, I thought he’d be the lesser of all the evils. ... They all have their issues, I guess.”
And if voters here are looking forward to defeating Obama in the fall, they’re dissatisfied with how the GOP primary process has played out so far.
“I think it’s a nightmare,” Kell said of the primary process. “I just think with everything – with all the TV commercials and all the phone calls and everything that’s going on, I think it’s crazy. Nobody seems to run on their own merit.”
Reneker, the professor from Canton, agreed.
“I think I’m really disappointed with the way that it’s gone so far, because honestly, I feel like they spend so much time attacking each other,” she said. “And I don’t know that they’re focusing on the right things yet. ... They just spend so much time and money bashing each other. I don’t know why they would do that.”
Earl Sheehan, an attorney from North Canton, lamented that “there’s all this money being spent on all the infighting.”
“We should concentrate on the fall,” he said.