After four hard years, Iowa siblings split their votes

November 5, 2012

The early voting site in Dubuque, Iowa where the Anderson siblings voted. (Jenna Johnson -- The Washington Post)

On Saturday, Mitt Romney stood in a hangar at the Dubuque Regional Airport in Iowa and told the few thousands gathered that he would fix the economy. Hours later, Obama stood in Washington Park in downtown Dubuque and said his opponent's "top-down economics" were the same ones that crashed the economy.

On Monday morning, two siblings met at the early voting location in downtown Dubuque to cast their ballots. Four years ago, both voted for Obama. This time, they are split.

Older sister Rebecca Anderson, 25, voted again for Obama, saying that the president needs more than four years to accomplish everything he has promised to do. Her younger brother, Phil Anderson, 22, voted for Romney.

"Four years ago, I was all excited," said Phil Anderson, who is a single father with a two-year-old daughter. "I thought this could be different. But my view has rapidly changed over time."

Obama is "not fulfilling what he told us he would do," Anderson said. "I feel like we need someone new to step up our economy."

Neither sibling has had it easy the past four years. Rebecca earned an associate's degree in graphic design from the local community college, but she was unable to find a full-time job in that industry. She works as a waitress at two restaurants in Galena, Ill., which is just over the Mississippi River and, she says, has better-paying jobs. Over four years she paid off $10,000 in credit card debt and is now working to reduce the only debt she has left, $5,000 that she borrowed to pay for her last semester of college. She also became a mother; her daughter is now 17 months old.

"My life is better now," she said, standing outside the polling place. "Obama has made a lot of progress, and he's human -- he can't do everything in four years. I want him to have four more years."

Phil Anderson attended military school and was in the Army from 2007 to 2010. He has some college credits, but no degree. For the past two years, he has been unemployed. He earns money shoveling snow and doing yard work but has been turned down for job after job.

"Retail. Fast food. Security," he said. "They just don't want to hire me right now."

His sister cut in: "Doesn't it feel weird to support someone who said 'those people'? You're those people."

He shook his head, saying Romney's comments on the 47 percent have been taken out of context by the media. Again and again, he said: "We need someone new."

Jenna Johnson writes about Maryland politics, including the General Assembly, the administration of Gov. Martin O'Malley and the 2014 election.
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