Grant County Switchbacks: A Picnic, A Starbucks And An Update

GAS CITY-- Feeling weary driving the highway en route to Indianapolis from Fort Wayne, I saw a sign that made me feel at home. Starbucks. What's a weary Seattlelite to do?

Pull over, of course.

I grabbed a coffee at the Gas City Starbucks located in Grant County Sunday evening. I made the stop with my colleagues Will Mari and Meghan Peters after I left the Obama picnic in Fort Wayne, which is also located in Grant County, in the northwestern region of the state. Grant County is considered in some corners of the blogosphere to be a toss up, or tie county, between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

People throughout Indiana are excited. I am hearing that from Hoosiers over and over again. I am hearing some shared policy opinions among them, too.

Most of the people I talked with in Grant County, and around the state, have so far said Clinton's gas tax holiday is just a short-term solution. "The gas tax holiday is insulting to the country's intelligence. It's not going to help," said Obama supporter Liz Karst, who attended the Obama picnic event with her husband and two daughters.

Karsts' husband works as a construction contractor and attended the event undecided between Clinton and Obama. Afterward, he left unsure of where Obama stood on specific policy issues and said he was leaning toward Clinton.

At the Starbucks in Gas City, an Obama supporter, Kelly Berry, was having coffee with best friend Shannon Suever. Berry said she felt the same about the gas tax holiday. "It's the dumbest thing I have ever heard of. It's a political ploy," said Berry, who works as a dental hygienist in the area.

Both women could fit the group of voters that favor Clinton. However, not these two women. Berry said she used to support Clinton but made the switch to Obama because she was very disappointed in the negative attacks by the Clinton campaign. Berry fears a backdoor superdelegate primary decision and said John McCain would get her vote in the fall if Obama lost the nomination.

Suever, a Republican, who lives just outside of Gas City in a conservative neighborhood, said she would vote for Obama in November if he won the nomination. If Clinton was on the ticket, she said she would vote for McCain.

Berry was not the only person I talked with who made the switch from Clinton to Obama for the reason of disappointment in negative campaign tactics. "I lost respect for Bill Clinton," said Sam Woodfin, a retiree who attended the Obama picnic with friends.

Obama's family picnic event drew a crowd of roughly 3,000. Just a few hours earlier and only five minutes away, Clinton drew a crowd of roughly three hundred at Indiana Tech in the commons.

Both candidates have been campaigning in different cities in Grant County. President Clinton and Chelsea Clinton have also made stops. Obama was the only one who visited the city of Marion in Grant County. And today, the Chronicle Tribune, which serves Grant County, wrote an editorial that didn't specifically announce an endorsement for Obama but had favorable things to say about him.

"It's gonna be extremely tight," said Berry on the primary. "I think I'd rather bet on the Kentucky Derby."