In the basement of a Silver Spring apartment building 20 or so men sit around three tables, playing gin rummy and arguing about the upcoming presidential election.
There is Morris Ginsburg, who says he was a millionaire until his wife spent all his money. There is Albert Levinson, a retired clothing salesman who says he supplements his social security income playing cards. And there is Arthur Lastfogel, a retired sign artist.
Although all of them are old friends and almost are all Democrats who hold similar views, they can spend hours discussing and debating the merits of each presidential candidate. They take an immense interest in the election, at least partly because it provides such a good topic of conversation. All watched the televised debate between Carter and Reagan Tuesday night. All of them plan to vote.
With a few exceptions, they are Democrats who would not vote for a Republican, no matter who. But they do not like Reagan, in particular, because they do not think he is as intelligent as Carter and because, ironically, they think he is too old for the job.
"A man of 70, he shouldn't take the presidency," said Lastfogel, 81, who observed that Reagan's jowls showed during the televised debate. "He's on a downgrade, you forget things easily at that age."
"Age has a lot to do with it," agreed Levinson. "A person in his 40s or 50s has more stamina or capability than a man in his 60s or 70s."
Two of the card players say they will not vote for Carter because the inflation rate has eroded the buying power of their fixed incomes, but the other card players quickly make excuses for Carter. "You can't blame the economy and inflation on one man" said Levinson, the clothing salesman.
The card players are all over 60 years old and Jewish. Most worked as businessmen and owned their own homes until they no longer enjoyed maintaining them. Then, they and their wives moved to the high-rise, $300 to $500 a month apartments in Silver Spring known at Blair Plaza, Blair East and Blair Towers.
On Monday through Thursday afternoons when the men gather to play gin rummy or pinochle, they tend to discuss books and women and politics.
At one of the card tables, the men begin talking about the debate between Carter and Reagan. Samuel Spitzer, a former businessman who is voting for Carter, thinks the debate showed that Reagan is not as familiar with the country's problems as Carter. "Right, right," says several of the men who look up from their game.
Then, they begin discussing their reasons for voting for Carter. Levinson interrupts his gin rummy game to give a litany of Carter's virtues. "Carter," he says, "is experienced, intelligent, a scientist, a graduate of Annapolis, and 10 times the diplomat Reagan ever possibly would be."
Such remarks prompt a man who was playing pinochle at another table to walk over to the group. "I'll show you a bet," says Albert Abramson, another retired clothing salesman, to no one in particular. "I like Reagan all the way through."
Levinson, the other former clothing saleman, agrees to bet Abramson $100 on the outcome of the election. The other card players tell them to take out their money to show they are sincere.
Neither has much money, so they promise to bring it to the next game, another night.