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In the past few weeks, we've been sending reporters to cafés 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 Brett Moser heads southwest of Springfield to the city of Aurora.
About thirty miles southwest of Springfield, down Highway 60, sits the town of Aurora, Missouri. Population? Just over 7,000. A few restaurants and small storefronts line Madison Street in Aurora’s downtown area.
We arrive at "Kaffe Metropolitan" just before lunch time. The coffeeshop’s mainstays are specialty coffees and vegetarian sandwiches.
Even though business is slow on this particular day, one customer, Connie Turner sits down to enjoy a turkey sandwich with sprouts. In this election, Turner says the number one issue the next president needs to focus on is the economy.
Turner says, "This bailout package makes me sick. It was a travesty. It shouldn't have ever, ever happened. There's no sense in it. It all has to be straightened out and made right."
Though Turner states neither candidate’s economic plan has persuaded her, she plans on voting for John McCain due to his positions on abortion, the war in Iraq, and disfavor of big government.
Just down the street at Bootleggers Restaurant, servers weave in between tables holding platters of bacon cheeseburgers with mounds of thick-cut French fries. The main building used to be the Aurora Bank, built in the late 1800s. Now, the restaurant uses the old bank vault to brew five different varieties of beer.
On this day, the crowds are big and so are the opinions.
Patrick and Ute Baker sit down to lunch with their son, Michael. The family lives in Saint James, Missouri, but Ute works in the business right above Bootleggers during the week while Michael goes to school in Joplin.
Ute, who was originally born in Germany and became a naturalized citizen, says she feels Barack Obama doesn’t have much substance.
Ute states, "Obama is the 'I can say anything, but what comes out of my mouth doesn't mean anything' kind of guy. People like him. I cannot stand to watch him."
We asked the family what they thought about the candidates’ vice presidential picks. Patrick Baker is impressed by McCain’s running mate, Sarah Palin.
"She's got the backbone, the spunk. If I had to have somebody next to me, I'd want Palin and McCain. I'd take the two of them any day. One on each side of me if we had to go to war," Patrick adds.
He says he’s concerned with allegations of Obama’s ties to certain domestic extremist groups. He says he’ll be voting for John McCain this November to keep America from turning into a socialist society, which he feels could occur under Barack Obama.
Back in the Bootleggers kitchen, the kitchen staff finishes grilling sandwiches while some load the dishwasher as they listen to the sounds of hard rock radio.
Co-owner Scott Young rings up orders at the register in the kitchen. He says though each candidate right now seems to be offering mere promises, he feels Obama presents something different.
"I feel like maybe the business environment might get better if we have some major change in the markets and getting some help to people out there who are really needing it right now," Young says.
The war in Iraq is also an issue of concern to Young.
Young states, "Sometimes I don't think we have the best interests of the American people at hand when we go into some of these actions. I think the Iraq war needs to come to a close on a good note. Hopefully whoever's our next president will get us out of there, but get us out of there responsibly."
Residents of Aurora will cast their ballots for the presidential election at either the American Legion Post, Assembly of God Church, or Aurora number two fire station.
For KSMU News, I’m Brett Moser.