An undecided voter in Arlington struggles to choose

October 4, 2012

As President Obama made his closing argument to the American people in the first presidential debate Wednesday night, Josh Sacks pointed at the television screen and shook his head.

“Weak, weak!” Sacks said. “I thought Obama’s closing was terrible. . . . Romney won.”

The 24-year-old IT consultant voted for Obama in 2008 but said he isn’t pleased with the president now. After getting caught up in the hope and change message of Obama’s historic campaign four years ago, Sacks said he has since been disappointed by a lack of big ideas from the president and what he describes as “an incrementalist approach.”

Sacks said he wants to vote for Mitt Romney. But at the same time, he said he’s still not convinced.

“I work in consulting, which is all about finding efficiencies and saying, ‘How can we do something better?’ ” Sacks said. “That’s [Romney’s] strong suit.”

To help make up his mind, Sacks looked to the first debate of the 2012 election season, and invited friends to eat barbecue and watch the 90-minute exchange at his apartment in Arlington.

He and co-worker Ryan Pfister were the only undecided people there; his other friends knew their preferences and were prepared to root for their candidate.

“Josh is undecided enough for all of us,” said Ben Bloomfield, who was also in attendance.

“Hey, one’s good for me, and one’s good for the country,” Sacks said, declining to comment further.

According to a Washington Post/ABC News poll released earlier this week, 32 percent of voters who say they are undecided or could still change their mind said they are “very interested” in the presidential debates.

But Sacks was adamant: He is not a typical undecided voter.

Sacks, who said his indecision is not a symptom of indifference, says he has been fairly engaged for months. He even volunteered to campaign for erstwhile GOP presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman Jr.

As the debate began, he cried mockingly: “Who are these undecided voters who can’t make up their minds?” He and his friends settled in with plates of cheeseburgers and beer, listening intently for buzzwords to mark on their bingo cards, such as “voucherize” and “Romney Care.”

Toward the end of the debate, Sacks put down his bingo card to take notes. He scored the candidates, with Obama beating Romney, but took off points for the president’s “missed opportunities” on his responses regarding such topics as education and health care.

On the other hand, Romney’s responses sometimes resonated with Sacks, such as when Romney talked about the energy’s future.

“This is why I like Romney, Sacks said, nodding. “Energy independence is going to be the most important issue of the next decade.”

Pfister was also frustrated with Obama’s responses. On health care, Pfister said: “Obama’s not nailing it. I actually agree with Obama on this point, but he’s just so slow in making it.”

Before he can make up his mind, Sacks said he will need to hear both candidates speak about foreign policy.

But Wednesday night, the exasperated voter considered another strategy.

‘‘I think I’m just going to flip a coin in the voting booth,” he said.

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