Philip Maddocks: Undecided voters undecided about the issue on which they are indecisive

Philip Maddocks

As the presidential race headed into its final days, a geographically indistinct smattering of intellectually uncommitted adults, more commonly known as undecided voters, were still waiting to hear a clear argument from either candidate as to why, after more than 20 months of campaigning and dozens of debates, voters like them remain indecisive about their indecision.

"Frankly, neither candidate has sealed the deal for me," said Tina Chad, 42, a homemaker from Tampa, Fla., who describes herself as a lifelong undecided voter. "Am I undecided because I think John McCain’s health care plan is socialist or that Obama’s tax plan will hurt maverick plumbers? You tell me. I just don’t know. I don’t think either candidate understands the everyday struggles of the undecided voter."

"I am still stuck in the middle and I still don’t know why," said Sam Scanner, 69, a retired teacher from Boston. "Yesterday I thought it was because I am not sure about Obama’s position on seeing Russia from Alaska. Today, I’m not sure I understand McCain’s economic plan for Bob the Builder. Tomorrow, I expect to be uncertain about Sarah Palin’s new hairstyle."

Iona Butterfly, a retired cashier from Toledo, Ohio, said she couldn’t decide if she was undecided because McCain is too old, or Obama is too young, or one of them voted with William Ayers 90 percent of the time.

"I liked it better when Ron Paul was in the race. At least then I thought I knew why I was undecided," she said.

An elderly homemaker from St. Louis, who would not give her name, threatened to boycott the election. "I can’t decide whether I favor Obama because of his experience with 1960s radicals or McCain because he is willing to go against the wishes of both parties by reaching across the aisle to build consensus."

In the end, she said, the most convincing argument to date by either candidate was the one emphasized by Mr. McCain in recent days, that his presidency would serve as a brake on what his campaign is portraying as a runaway Congress dominated by Democrats.

"I like the idea that I am going to be Nancy Pelosi’s and Harry Reid’s worst nightmare, so I might just vote for one of them — or both — for president, as a check and balance. I haven’t decided, yet," she said.

Some observers say the decision of both candidates to spend most of their time courting decisive voters, and the media’s sudden lack of interest in searching out the portion of the electorate with half-formed opinions and tortured logic have left the small number of undecided voters in this campaign feeling marginalized and more indecisive than ever about their role in this historic election.

"I am not sure I think anybody represents me," said Joseph C. Diebold, 34, sitting on a bench across from an ice cream parlor in Santa Fe, N.M., with his dog, a shepherd mix. "I’m sick of hearing about Main Street, because I don’t think anybody running is from Main Street, though I haven’t decided on that, either. It’s a scary time of life, with the whole state of affairs. The economy is in terrible shape." He said he was trying to "undecide" between "basically the lesser of two evils."

Undecided voters were equally indecisive about the vice presidential running mates in this year’s election.

"I love chain e-mails  and I love Sarah," said Nanette Ballot, 73, a squirrel breeder from Boulder, Colo. "I think it is great that she cleaned out her state as governor but I don’t like it that she owes Joe The Plumber nearly $1,200 in back taxes. But then again, I didn’t like it when I heard that Joe Biden isn’t a licensed plumber. So I question the experience of both."

"I haven’t decided yet, but I think I am totally against McCain and his running mate," Max Poll said, while sipping on a milkshake in a diner in Indianapolis. "I’m for equality, but I think the thought of Tito The Builder a heartbeat away is too much. But I am not crazy about the fact that Obama suspended his campaign for a couple of days after Britney Spears asked him to and that he spent $150,000 of the party’s money on clothes for her and Michelle. That’s sexist."

Poll said he was considering voting for a third-party candidate as a way out of his indecision.

"I’m thinking of backing That One," he said. "He somehow managed to get on stage for one of the Obama-McCain debates. I liked the way he handled himself, and I don’t know anything about him, which is a real plus."

Philip Maddocks can be reached