Bernie Sanders was right. If a small sampling of some of North Carolina’s nearly two million early voters are any indication, Americans are saying “enough with the damn emails!” Several national polls have already reinforced my findings.
After 72 hours of maddening, saturation national television news coverage of the FBI’s sneak peak into a private email server shared by top Hillary Clinton staffer Huma Abedin and her husband Anthony Weiner (known for permitting peaks of other parts of his secret life), I needed to get out among living, breathing voters and find out if all of this last-minute, hyperventilation over husband/wife emails was having any impact on people’s actual thoughts or votes.
The answer came loud and clear across party lines, gender difference, age gaps, and race: Not. At. All.
On the first full work-day after the latest installment of FBI “revelations” were disclosed by FBI Director James Comey, I spent several hours interviewing 22 North Carolina voters waiting in line to vote for at least an hour, at a Raleigh-based Early Voting place, one of 400 such sites around the state. As of today, November 1, nearly two million North Carolinians—or just less than one-third of the State’s total 6.8 million registered voters—have already cast their ballots. My question was direct: “Does the FBI email issue in the news this weekend have any impact upon your vote for President?
Lindsay Tucker, a first-time voter from Wendell, N.C., said, “there’s no difference between what’s happened before and now. It’d be nice to see a woman as President.”
Denis Wood, a middle-aged white, male about 30 years older than Lindsay, and a Raleigh resident for over 40 years, was a bit more blunt.
“Give me a break,” Wood said. “We don’t even know what it is yet. How could it be news?
Among the motivating issues for Wood, a long-time unaffiliated voter, but now, a registered Democrat, was “the complete horror of the thought of Donald Trump running the country.”
The emails were a non-issue for Lawrence Davis, a Social Worker from Raleigh and Jason Sheffield, a graduate student in International Studies at North Carolina State University.
“They haven’t really shown what’s in there”, said Sheffield, a Clinton supporter. “Trump has so many shoes in his mouth that I don’t think he’s gonna be able to pull ‘em all out.”
Davis agreed. “I view it as the lesser of two evils, so I’m voting for Clinton,” he said. “Trump is too far off base for me.”
Gina Autry and Carl Hampton, both Trump supporters, felt differently. Autry, a registered Republican in an area that frequently votes Democratic, was voting a straight party-line. She made her choices before the recent FBI revelations, and was sticking with Trump, “even though I don’t like either.” Hampton, registered as unaffiliated, was less certain about his choices down-ballot, after Trump. But the emails had no impact on his choice for President.
“Once I’ve made up my mind, I’m ready to go,” he said.
Teri and Rob Matheson, both 63 years old, and Raleigh residents who met as students at North Carolina State in 1971, said the FBI’s announcement had no impact at all upon their thinking.
“I was waiting for it,” said Teri, a mortgage broker, and a strong Clinton supporter. “From day one I said they’d bring out something when they could.”
Rob, a retired science teacher and school administrator, reinforced his wife’s observation. “This campaign is about fear,” he said. “Television is so negative and dark.”
“This country comes from a good place,” added Teri, “not from a greedy, dark, mean place.”
Two North Carolina State University seniors, Jonathan DeBruhl and Maris Hall, both Graphic Design majors, were exercising their right to vote for the first time. For Hall, a North Carolina native, the biggest issue for her was “not electing Trump,” and the latest email news had no effect on her thinking, since, “Trump’s people have been pushing this for a long time.”
DeBruhl shared her thinking on the issue, and put it into a different perspective: “It feels like the Obama Birther Scandal, all over again,” he said.
In all, I spoke with 22 randomly selected, registered North Carolina Voters, all eager to “get this election over,” as more than one told me. Fifteen of them expressed a preference for Hillary Clinton, three for Trump, and four were undecided or unwilling to reveal their choice.
To a person, they all agreed on one thing: “Enough with the damn emails.”