RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
With just a couple of weeks to go now until the election, we wanted to reach out to different parts of the country to find out what's getting people excited or frustrated or motivated to vote. Since this is WEEKEND EDITION, we thought the best way to do that would be to catch people when they're gathered together with friends having brunch and maybe some heated political conversation. With the help of our friends and colleagues at State Impact and the technical assistance of Skype, we linked up with a group in Idaho City, Idaho. Idaho is historically a solidly red state, and Idaho City tilts Republican, too. Around the table at Trudy's Kitchen were Trudy Jackson herself; Brent Adamson, a country assessor; John Roberts - he's a local disaster services coordinator; and Vanessa Sleight, whose family owns a local construction business.
GROUP: Good morning. How are you doing?
MARTIN: Has breakfast been served yet?
TRUDY JACKSON: There's bacon and eggs. We got sausage and eggs and then I have a Spanish omelet with sausage and John's having a hotcake.
MARTIN: OK. So, Trudy, I'd love to start with you, and how you've seen the town kind of weather the recession over the past few years.
JACKSON: Well, a year ago at this time I didn't even think I would be open. You know, my line of credit was almost maxed out and I wasn't sure how we were going to make it any longer. There's a lot of reasons that there's no business. We didn't get any snow, so we didn't get any winter enthusiasts and then nobody has any money. But what I think that did for us this year is that because gas was so expensive and nobody had any money to go long distances is that I actually had the best economic year I've ever had here. And I'm still having a hard time finding employees. That's a big deal for me right now, and part of that is because they're making so much money not working that they don't want to get a job.
JOHN ROBERTS: This is John Roberts. I disagree that it's because government programs are so good right now. I don't know that that's the case. Unemployment is...
JACKSON: So, what do you think it is?
ROBERTS: ...is there for a purpose.
MARTIN: So, John, what are you not hearing from the candidates that you need to be hearing?
ROBERTS: In all politics right now, we are too focused on little things - not little things, but specific things - instead of the big picture. The big picture is the economy's coming back from the worst recession we've had since the Depression. It's not too surprising that it's taken a little bit of time to do so. But all I hear on the debates and those sorts of things is a lot of finger-pointing.
MARTIN: If I can switch the conversation a little bit. Vanessa, you own a local construction business, is that right?
VANESSA SLEIGHT: That's correct.
MARTIN: As a small business owner, what are you looking for in this campaign? What do you need to hear from these two candidates?
SLEIGHT: We don't see any hope if President Obama gets re-elected, because there are just too many regulations. There are too many unknowns. And so I think - you have a climate out there of business owners who are a little bit fearful to invest in employees because you don't know what's going to happen.
MARTIN: How about if I could put this to the rest of the table - the deficit is such a huge issue in this election this year. From your perspectives, if you care about reducing the deficit, would you be willing to take less Social Security?
JACKSON: No. I do not think they should tap into my Social Security because I paid for that Social Security. Most of the people I see that are in office have either never run a small business and don't have a clue what it's like to fight. And if they had to spend their own money, then they'd be a little bit more intelligent about spending ours.
ROBERTS: If we really want to stop or balance the budget, that means paying our bills, right? How do you do that if you're going lower taxes? Right now is not the time to talk about huge tax breaks to anybody if you want to balance the budget. I don't understand how that works.
SLEIGHT: I think most of us...
JACKSON: I haven't seen a tax break...
SLEIGHT: I actually agree with you.
ROBERTS: We've got one party who is promising huge tax breaks and the other one is at least saying, you know what? This is not the time for a tax break. We need to continue taxing at the rate we're at.
MARTIN: Part of Mitt Romney's plan is to eliminate a lot of loopholes, a lot of deductions and a lot of economists say it's going to be really tough for him to do what he needs to do without perhaps going at some more popular deductions, like the mortgage interest deduction, like the child care credit. Would you be OK if those deductions went away?
ROBERTS: Absolutely, because something has to be touched.
SLEIGHT: That's one of the reasons that I think having a businessperson in the White House is a great thing. It's like somebody who knows how to bring people together. And I would say if you're a liberal, Democrat, Republican, conservative, Tea Party, whoever, I bet you if we all really sat down, we would agree on 75 percent of the issues.
MARTIN: Is Mitt Romney saying anything that you think will change that somehow?
ROBERTS: I don't. I think both parties are catering to the - well, at least the Republican Party I will say - is catering to the extreme. I mean, they are so hung up on abortion rights and some of the things that aren't what we've been talking about today. And I'm not saying they're not important but...
SLEIGHT: President Obama - they're the ones who - I mean, you can't just say it's the Republicans. The Democrats too...
ROBERTS: I think most of the Republican Party, they can't figure out what it stands for.
JACKSON: Oh, John.
ROBERTS: The Democrats are not doing this.
MARTIN: You guys...
ROBERTS: You want to talk?
MARTIN: I just wish I was having a cup of coffee with y'all, and I don't mean to interrupt the momentum of the conversation. To wrap up, I'd love for each of you to give me just a couple of sentences on how enthusiastic you are about your choices this year, and what is the one issue, if you can boil it down, that will get you to the polls. Trudy Jackson.
JACKSON: I'm tired of the rhetoric. I want a president to bring us back together as a country.
MARTIN: John, if we can move to John Roberts.
ROBERTS: The issue we haven't talked about this morning is the biggest issue in my mind, and that is health care. All of us need to be able to pay for affordable health care, and we cannot do that right now as long as the only insured people are working for big companies.
SLEIGHT: The most important issue would be the economy. I will vote for Mitt Romney because of his background and his experience.
MARTIN: And now moving along the table, let's see, Brent.
BRENT ADAMSON: My level of enthusiasm to go to the polls is always at 100 percent because I'm an American and I get to vote. My level of enthusiasm for the presidential choices is not high. I wish there was somebody else, to be real honest.
MARTIN: OK. Folks, I feel badly that we've been talking so much, I fear that your food has gotten cold. Have you been able to eat your breakfast?
GROUP: Yes, pretty much. Hardly.
MARTIN: You guys, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us. We really appreciate it.
ADAMSON: Thank you, Rachel.
SLEIGHT: Thank you for having us.
JACKSON: Thank you, Rachel.
MARTIN: That was Trudy Jackson, Brent Adamson, John Roberts and Vanessa Sleight, all at Trudy's Kitchen in Idaho City. And thanks to Sadie Babits of Boise State Public Radio. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.