When it comes to presidential politics, Steve Iversen has been a longtime conflicted voter.
He grew up in Chicago and moved to the South in the early 1960s to enroll at UNC Chapel Hill, where he took part in the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements as a devout Republican.
Since the 1964 presidential election – the first Iversen was old enough to vote in – he’s voted for both Democrats and Republicans.
“I’m one of these people who has to think a lot about things before I decide…,” said Iverson, a 70-year-old grandfather and retired manufacturer’s representative for medical products who’s lived in Charlotte for 40 years. “It just comes a little harder for me, than for most people.”
It’s been even harder this time for him to decide on President Barack Obama or Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
Before their three debates, Iversen was among the undecided. After the first, when Obama “seemed a little lethargic,” he was still undecided.
He began to tip toward Obama after the second debate when the president “came out swinging,” but decided he’d make his decision after last week’s face-off.
That 90 minutes, which he listened to on radio, sealed his vote for the president – maybe.
He’s not happy about it.
“I don’t really care for either one,” Iversen said. “I’d rather vote for (Libertarian candidate) Gary Johnson, but feel compelled to vote for someone who might win. Romney hasn’t convinced me that he has real plans for the country.
“For that matter, you might say the same about Obama.”
Voting is sacred
Iversen believes in the vote. He’s never missed one – as a volunteer precinct worker, he has no excuses.
“I’ve always felt people ought to get more involved in the elections and study the candidates more before they vote,” he said. “Too many voters just come into the polls and flip a Republican switch or a Democratic switch and walk out and feel like they’ve done their duty.
“Voting is a pretty sacred thing that a lot of people fought for.”
Iversen describes himself as a moderate Republican, “a dinosaur these days.”
He voted for Democrat Lyndon Johnson in 1964 and Richard Nixon in 1968.
In 1972, as the Watergate scandal unfolded, he voted for anti-Vietnam War Democrat George McGovern, who ran against President Nixon.
In 1996, he pulled a lever for Republican Bob Dole. Four years later, he voted for Democrat Al Gore, “which was a really different thing for me to do. I still regret it.”
In 2004, Libertarian candidate Michael Badnarik got his nod, “because I was just so disgusted with the choices.”
By 2008, he was ready to return to the Republican Party, voting for Republican Sen. John McCain, Obama’s opponent.
His decision this time has been agonizing. He began to resent people for poking fun at the undecided.
Iversen said his own party doesn’t deserve his vote because Republicans in Congress have “done nothing for practically two years except to stop everything. Because of partisan politics, nobody wants to compromise. … These people are supposed to be serving us, not themselves.”
He feels Romney has been short on specifics about programs.
“He says a lot of things that sound good, but he’s not laid out any pathways to get it accomplished,” Iversen said.
He’s concerned Romney would be a CEO-type president where “the bottom line, nothing else, is important to him.”
He calls Romney’s running mate, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, “an extremist.”
Like Romney, Iverson is anti-abortion.
“But, on the other hand, I don’t believe government needs to be telling people what they need to do,” he said.
He’s impressed by several of Obama’s successes, including: the killing of Osama bin Laden, ending the war in Iraq and repealing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law that banned openly gay troops in the military.
But the Obama administration’s spending and health care reforms scare him.
“I just don’t know how much it’s going to cost the country. We’re already sinking in debt,” he said.
‘Something could happen’
After the election, Iversen plans to re-register to unaffiliated.
He said he doesn’t fit in the “current Republican Party that has moved so far to the right.” Yet, though he likes the social programs of the Democratic Party, he still fears their spending.
For now, he’s resigned to vote for Obama on Nov. 6.
Or will he?
“You know something dramatic could happen in the last few days that would sway me to the other side,” he said. “… Sometimes I just don’t know until I go into the voting booth.”