INDEPENDENCE, Ohio – With the first half of Election Day already gone, campaigns are focusing on an ever-dwindling number of potential supporters in hopes of getting them to cast ballots before polls close at 7:30 this evening.
That means it’s time for “flushing."
Flushing is the inelegant term for an essential function of the frenetic get-out-the-vote operations that likely will determine whether President Obama or Mitt Romney wins Ohio, which in turn is a key factor in who wins nationally (and which party gets hundreds of other offices farther down on ballots.)
To flush, party activists go to polling places, read through the posted lists of those who already have voted, then cross those names off of the campaign’s master list of potential supporters. No point in calling or knocking on the door of somebody who’s already cast a ballot, after all.
At the Romney campaign office here in Independence, at a strip mall also featuring a Subway sandwich shop and an Ace hardware store, two of the designated flushers were the husband-wife team of Steve and Chris Biro. (Chris is short for Christina). Both are 59, retired, Catholic, conservative and furious at Obama.
“I have some issues with what’s going on in this country right now,” Steve, a retired telephone company worker, said before departing to a polling station in a nearby community center. “It’s called communism.”
Hanging from the rear view mirror of their minivan were rosary beads and a handicapped parking tag. The Biros consider Obamacare, with its support for contraception, an assault on their religious values. And both fear that the cost of the program will eventually undermine to the services their disabled son, Geoffrey, 31, now gets from Medicaid. (The couple has three other grown children as well).
“I certainly don’t have to pay for somebody’s contraception,” Chris said, exasperation in her voice. “Now all of a sudden we have to pay for everybody’s sex life?”
But it is the perceived threat to existing services for Geoffrey that appears to cut deeper. He is autistic, blind, developmentally disabled and prone to seizures. A single month of the most-effective anti-seizure medicine costs $1,100, they said, and they fear Obama will inevitably cut such benefits to keep the money flowing to his signature health care reform plan. They said many parents of handicapped children have similar fears.
Another clue to their concerns can be found in Steve’s personal history. He was born and spent the first several years of his life in Hungary, behind the Iron Curtain. He and his family escaped to Austria in 1956, then on to the United States, he said. He became a U.S. citizen just last year, at the urging of his children, who he said were sick of hearing him complain about the country without doing much to change it.
Steve cast a ballot for Romney on Tuesday, before doing a bit of flushing at Valley View Community Center, a few minutes drive from the campaign office in Independence, a Republican bastion in mostly Democratic Cuyahoga County.
So far, none of this has stopped Steve from complaining about the direction of the country, however. He says the United States is heading toward fewer personal liberties and more expansive government – a longterm trend he says has sharpened under four years of Obama.
“We see it as a beginning of Nazism,” Chris said.
Steve added, “Or Communism. Take your pick.”