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EXPAT VOICES

Two stark options for one great problem Add to ...

In planning our U.S. political coverage earlier this year, the Globe and Mail hit upon an idea: who better to explain the U.S. to Canada than Canadians living there?

Since July 4 – U.S. Independence Day – we harnessed a network of Canadian expats living in the U.S. (largely made up of Globe and Mail readers) to be cultural translators for election issues. With the aim of giving our online readers a broader and more textured feel to our election coverage, we put together a team of correspondents with a wide range of backgrounds: geography, ideology, age and occupation. The expats have sent dispatches from across the country, held forth on important and timely issues, and during the fall’s debates participated on live blogs alongside our staff and readers.

As voting day approaches, we asked some of the expats in swing states to give us their final words on the campaign.

Keith Vincent, 30, student

Lives in: Boynton Beach, Fla.

From: Corner Brook, Nfld.

Party affiliation: Republican

How have your political leanings evolved over the course of the campaign?

While I was initially a reluctant Romney supporter, mostly out of the necessity of picking the alternative to Obama, I have grown to like Mitt Romney more over time. His performances in the debates, his choice of Paul Ryan as a running mate, and his presidential demeanor have all helped ease my concerns about his candidacy. My confidence in Romney’s ability to tackle the lingering economic problems, the primary concern for most Americans, has been emboldened.

What is the most important local issue where you live?

A local issue that has come up here in Palm Beach County has concerned absentee ballots. There was a printing error with 27,000 ballots and they are now no longer readable by machine and must be analyzed individually. That’s not all: there have already been questions about matching (or non-matching) signatures and court challenges to rejected ballots are already starting. So, it will be interesting to see if this election will have its own version of the “hanging chad.”

Meredith Miller, 31, communications

Lives in: Pittsburgh, Pa.

From: Toronto

Party affiliation: Republican

How have your political leanings evolved over the course of the campaign?

As a communications professional, I’ve been fascinated with the way that campaigns have evolved to embrace technology. Watching the debates, it’s incredible to follow the tweets per minute, and learn about words that are “trending” the next day as a result (Big Bird, anyone?). I can only imagine what the 2016 race will be like and what new mediums each campaign will be using to reach their audiences.

While some may attempt to sum up this election as a battle over the middle class, or women, the fact of the matter is that President Obama has not delivered on his promises from four years ago, and the economic situation is dire. A failed record warrants a change at the helm, and that is what I am hoping for on Nov. 6.

What is the most important local issue where you live?

Here in western Pennsylvania, this is coal and natural gas country. A large part of Mitt Romney’s pledge to create 12 million jobs has to do with fostering domestic energy production. Many people in this region, as well as in Canada (with regard to Keystone XL) will likely be paying attention should Mitt Romney get elected.

Timothy C. Winegard, 35, professor

Lives in: Grand Junction, Colo.

From: Sarnia, Ont.

Party affiliation: Democrat

How have your political leanings evolved over the course of the campaign?

My views concerning the election and the future of America have not changed; in fact, if anything, I have gained increased support for President Obama and his party. The social platform of Romney-Ryan is, in my opinion, antiquated.

What is the most important local issue where you live?

Living in western Colorado, one key feature of the election is oil and gas development and the associated permits, as this provides the bulk of employment in the region. Although Obama has annually increased permits over the last three years, many here still do not see this as progressive enough. Romney has advocated for increased domestic oil production in the west, and has questioned the President over his failure to endorse the Keystone Pipeline. The result of the election will no doubt have an impact on energy development here.

Jenny Zhang, 23, advertising

Lives in: Greensboro, N.C.

From: Ottawa

Party affiliation: Democrat

How have your political leanings evolved over the course of the campaign?

Being in a swing state means that we are constantly bombarded with political advertising, which has actually made me more left-wing, as I cannot simply tune out just how far the truth is bent in service of electioneering. On the national stage, there has been constant pandering to religious ideology and “traditional” values, and barely disguised dog-whistling about the ways in which they are destroying the country. I wish this election mattered less than it did, but with two potential Supreme Court nominations coming up in the next four years and the Tea Party hammering at the door, I would be very hesitant to remain in the U.S. if Romney won. Enterprise is great, but I’ve no desire to live in a theocracy.

What is the most important local issue where you live?

In my little corner of eastern North Carolina, jobs are on everyone’s minds. There has been little conversation about social issues, foreign policy, climate change or anything other than the economy. This is perhaps understandable given the decline of the furniture, textiles and tobacco industries that have traditionally been strong in the state, but there also seems to be a sense of wistful nostalgia for the the boom times of the ‘90s. There are certainly high-growth industries in North Carolina, particular in biotechnology and IT, but there seems to be little local support for investing in the educational infrastructure that would enable local students to take advantage of the opportunities to be found at the Research Triangle Park. The Superintendent of Public Instruction is up for re-election on Nov. 6 as well, but few in my extended social circle seem to know, or care.

Andrew Grimson, 53, academic researcher

Lives in: Hanover, N.H.

From: Regina, Sask.

Party affiliation: Independent

How have your political leanings evolved over the course of the campaign?

I have moved from being right of centre to left of centre (Republican to Democrat), more from keeping Romney and his gang out than for rewarding Obama and crew with another term. I don’t think Romney would be able to bring about bipartisanship – he can’t nullify the Tea Party and other fringes. To deal with the deficit and debt, it does not matter who is in power. We will have to tackle Social Security and Medicare and change them drastically. We will have to make cuts and raise taxes (or close loopholes). I think Obama has a slight advantage in bringing these about in a sensible way.

What is the most important local issue where you live?

For New Hampshire, I will vote for the Democrat governor candidate, as I don’t want a Tea Party favourite getting in. We don’t have any other major issues here, just “Live Free or Die” – hence no seatbelt or motorcycle helmet laws.

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