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In the past few weeks we've been sending reporters to cafes in nearby small towns to get a feel for how rural Ozarks residents are viewing this year's elections. In our latest report, KSMU's Benjamin Fry heads southeast of Springfield to the city of Sparta.
Seven miles east of Ozark sits this town of 1,600, with Bull Creek Cafe just off the main stretch.We arrive mid-morning when nearly every table is filled in this family-owned restaurant.Old folks read the paper while kids stick quarters in the gum ball machine and waitresses bring breakfast to families.We spoke to Mary and Johnny, a couple who are waiting for their eggs, sausage and biscuits. The main topic they want to touch on is the recent presidential debate.Mary thinks both sides could have been more clear on their plans for the economy."I think we need someone to come on TV and give us a real printout as to what's happened and the plans that they have to show the American people in plain terms what the bailout mains to everybody"Her husband says he liked the debate and that he thinks McCain won it.But both these republicans expect more from the vice presidential debate this Thursday night. Johnny says he expecially likes Sarah Palin..."I like her straightforwardness and truthfulness"....but his wife thinks Biden will be a tough opponent."Because he's so knowledgeable in foreign affairs and that's really where I think she has no expertise yet"Later on, one of the cafe workers named Flo took a few minutes to express her views on the election.In addition to working at the cafe, she's an activity director at Ozark Nursing and Care in Ozark.She says both candidates should reach out more to those in nursing homes."The residents there are forgotten voters and people need to actually get campaigning into nursing homes"Flo says she has already registered about 15 absentee voters in her nursing home."They're real eager right now, watching CNN constantly to see what the best is, so they're alert enough to vote, they're just forgotten"On who seems to have a better health care plan, Flo favors McCain and Palin, but says she'll have to see which ticket will follow through if elected."You can't really trust either candidate until it's out there, until they get elected and we actually find out what they're gonna do"At a table near the kitchen door, 17 year old Cody is eating breakfast with a couple of friends. He tells us even if he were old enough to vote, he probably wouldn't because he's not satisfied with either candidate."But if I was forced to, I would choose Obama; I'm leaning a little more towards him right now"Cody says the way McCain spoke of his opponent during the debate makes him question how the republican senator would carry himself as president."McCain said that Obama didn't have the knowledge to be the president, and I thought that was a pretty low blow for McCain. It would kind of influence what I would think of just how they would run the country and the decisions they would make"On November 4th, Sparta residents will be casting their votes at the superintendent's office at Sparta High School.For KSMU News, I'm Benjamin Fry.