In Lyn Brooks' congressional district—Virginia's "fighting ninth," she dubs it—political passion is akin to high-school football: "Everyone wants to win, and they don't care how dirty they have to get to score."
And then there's the dreaded question: Who are you going to vote for?
"I honestly still don't know," Brooks, a 44-year-old unemployed writer near Roanoke, says. "It seems almost un-American to not have made a decision by this point."
In a first-person account for Yahoo News, Brooks writes that the campaign has evolved into something so hyperpartisan that it "seems it's a crime to discuss issues objectively." If she speaks positively about the Democrats, and she says she's "met with bitterness and malice" from Republicans. Praise Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan, and Democrats hit her with a "verbal sledgehammer."
So she finds solace in fact-checking sources, and she's discovered Rep. Ryan was off base when criticizing Barack Obama on TARP, Medicare and a General Motors plant in Janesville, Wis. Similarly, Brooks writes that Obama's claim of creating 4.5 million jobs number is misleading.
"Both sides have fluffed up their claims with exaggerations, and it is this, along with the personal attacks and malicious rhetoric, that have left me and millions of other voters still undecided," Brooks says.
Brooks, along with a group of undecided voters, is writing for Yahoo News about her presidential pick. Over the next 60 days, they're detailing how the campaign is coloring their choices. Here's a look at how other undecided voters are feeling.
Paul Ryan a shot in the arm for Romney
"I am still undecided," Michael Taylor, 60, writes, "but starting to lean."
That lean is toward Romney, primarily because Ryan joined the team—and the Wisconsin representative reminds him of Rep. Ron Paul, whom Taylor backs.
"Picking Paul Ryan for vice president looks like a shot of Red Bull that could galvanize the party," Taylor, a retired commercial artist in Las Vegas, writes.
Obama very clearly doesn't have Taylor's vote: "The presidency of Obama has been a disaster." But he isn't a Romney fan, either: "I have not been convinced by Mitt Romney that he can provide anything, except more of the same."
Enter Ryan. Taylor watched his RNC address—"Wow. What a speech!"—and moved toward the GOP ticket.
"Listening to the Ryan speech with its references to limiting government intrusions and returning to fiscal responsibility, I could almost hear the same words that were spoken so often by Ron Paul," Taylor writes.
The truth is hard to find in the campaign
In Iowa, Steve Ott hoped for a little honesty from Obama and Romney. He admits he may be waiting a while.
Ott, a 27-year-old pastor from Muscatine, wrote in August that negative tactics discouraged him: "If someone cannot win a race with honor and integrity, why bother running at all?" He was hopeful the candidates would wage constructive campaigns.
"Unfortunately, this has not been the case, as each campaign and their supporting groups continue to hurl insults and lies at one another," he writes this week.
Joe Biden's bumper-sticker quip, "Osama bin Laden is dead, and GM is alive," doesn't endear Ott to Obama. Not comforting, either, is the Romney's camp's now-infamous line: "We're not going let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers."
"Both sides of [the] aisle have played loose with the truth," Ott writes. "I get the sense that elections and campaigns have become nothing more than a reality-TV show, with each candidate willing to do anything to get votes."
It's time, Ott says, to look past the campaigns' tactics and focus on how his beliefs line up with the candidates' platforms.
But for now, he's "undecided to the max."
A vote for Obama hinges on his commitment to coal
"Survival was always a precarious thing in my hometown," Susan Graybeal writes—and that survival is tied inexorably to the energy economy. If she votes Obama, he will need to earn it through a promising energy policy.
Graybeal, a 40-year-old former newspaper reporter, recently moved to Northern California from a boom-and-bust western Colorado town that relies heavily on oil rigs and mining. She's incredibly focused on Obama's "all-of-the-above" energy platform, but says the president's unwillingness to go all-in on coal technology keeps her from throwing him her support.
"To be sure, each week, the Obama Administration, via the Department of Energy, announces government investment in new, innovative energy resources. Methane hydrates. Concentrating solar power systems. Everything, it would seem, except coal," she writes.
Americans depend too heavily on coal—for jobs and energy—to abandon it. The facts, to Graybeal, are clear. She writes: "According to the National Mining Association, in 2011, an average of 86,195 people were working at American coal mines each day. Further, the NMA reports, coal generates nearly half the electricity in the United States. Ninety percent of the coal mined each year is used for domestic electricity. It is available in 38 states and makes up 94 percent of the U.S. fossil energy reserve."
What about Romney's energy policies? Because of his social conservatism, they might not matter: "I am tired of the Republican Party's stance on most social issues to the point that I'm repulsed by it."
America needs fatherly leadership—but which version?
What kind of dad does America need? It's a legitimate question, if you ask Florida voter Cristian Feher.
He listened to Ann Romney and Michelle Obama heap praise on their spouses at the conventions. He says he had hoped they'd provide answers about Romney and Obama's family life that the candidates hadn't yet offered. They're both clearly family men and devoted fathers, but Feher draws a distinction: "Obama, the cool dad? Or Romney, the do-gooder church-dad?"
Feher says the wives' speeches parroted each other, and after Ann Romney's speech, "I know as much about Romney now, as before her speech."
For now, Feher, a 33-year-old chef in Clearwater, is split. He writes that he's dissatisfied with Obama, but no one has explained to him how Romney is better.
"It's hard to believe I could still be undecided with two months to go until the presidential election," he says. "But here I sit, unsure if the presidential candidates deserve my vote."
One less undecided voter
At least Lyn Vaccaro has made up her mind. The 50-year-old mother of eight from Milwaukee writes that Romney's tapping of Ryan as his running mate led her to the GOP ticket.
"He finally made things gel for me," she writes.
Romney certainly didn't. Vaccaro said she scrutinized his pro-life stances and didn't find them comforting. Romneycare, she writes, scared her. Obama's unfulfilled promises (a Gitmo closure and an economic revitalization, to name two) soured her.
"Then, along came Paul Ryan, from my home state of Wisconsin," she writes, noting that his fiscal conservatism pushed her from the voting fence.
"He realizes 2+2 does not equal 5. Simple math tells us that we cannot continue to spend money that doesn't exist. This can't be done in your own personal budget, and guess what? The same concept exists wherever money exists, not just in our personal bank accounts. Paul Ryan realizes this, and his addition to the Romney ticket solidified my support for the GOP nominee."
Read more perspectives from undecided voters:
- Politics & Government
- Barack Obama
- Paul Ryan
- Paul Ryan
- Paul Ryan
- Mitt Romney
- Mitt Romney