“The 47 percent can go to hell?” Phyllis added. “I thought, ‘Never.’ ”
A few tables away, under the ceiling fans and 1950s style stainless steel, John Thompson, 68, wearing a white bearded, wool hat and leather jacket, finished up the bean soup. It reminded him, he said, of his mother’s recipe growing up the son of a reverend in the Ohio countryside. He and his wife, Karen, took care of their bill and said that it was important that the government took care of its citizens. “Romney doesn’t give the impression that he cares about working people,” said Thompson, a carpenter. He said that he and his wife had absentee ballots ready for mailing on their desks back home. “What Romney’s saying is that we are just a bunch of moochers!”
As fire engines raced toward the highway, families across the street shopped under the fluorescent light of the Volunteers of America thrift store. Used gloves for 99 cents hung from racks loaded with used T-shirts, dresses, pants and shoes. In the back, two men looked over a stereo with tape decks.
“You see where I’m shopping? I can’t afford to buy anything new,” Mary Skinner, 59, said as the cashier stuffed the pants, umbrella and yellow blanket she had selected into translucent plastic bags. The nursing home at which Skinner worked had frozen pay for the last three years, a development she attributed to cuts in Medicare. But that didn’t make her more likely to vote for Obama, she said. She hadn’t paid attention to the debate about Medicare, which Obama says he would protect from Romney’s proposed reforms. “I won’t vote for Obama,” she said, pausing to instruct her granddaughter Brianna to hit the gumball machine into which she had fed quarters.
This is the sort of disaffected voter that Romney is desperately trying to activate in Ohio. Skinner said she had the sense that Romney was a competent manager who could fix things. But she also said, “I don’t think I’ll vote.”
Others in the store, similarly dependent on government assistance, were eager to cast their ballots. In the sleepwear aisle, Diana Ooten, 29, with long, bleached hair falling on her Lynyrd Skynyrd T-shirt, examined the racks for undergarments. Her young son, Giovanni, ran over from the adjacent used-toy department clutching a plastic register.