For some longtime Democrats and former Republicans, Joe Biden wasn't the first choice, but he is the only one.

But for one man, he's standing by his man.

With the 2020 general election mere days away, there appear to be few undecided voters when it comes to who should be the next president. Biden, who was vice president for eight years under Barack Obama, leads President Donald Trump by close to double digits on average nationally.

Five people were interviewed locally for the Courier's "Pulse of the Voters" story, and while most of them have or will be voting for Biden this year, it took a while to get there.

"I used to be a Republican until about Obama's second term, but regardless of your party, you should do what you say you're going to do," said 30-year-old Justin Miller, who is a project writer for Schinn Construction, which sets across the driveway from his home in rural Albia.

"I didn't like what I was seeing from the Republican Party when he was elected and I didn't want to associate myself with them."

Miller has gone from a conservative moderate to "as left as you can be" in eight years.

"Too many Republican senators got on the 'birtherism' train," he said of the trigger to his gradual shift to the left. "Most people can see through the bulls---. That was a bridge too far for me."

Health care is also a big issue for Miller, who said people shouldn't go into poverty to stay healthy.

"Medicare-for-all-who-want-it is a half-step, in my opinion," he said. "If you want to abolish private insurance, then just do it."

Still, Miller probably wouldn't vote for Biden if there was a different voting system, such as ranked-choice, in which nominees are ordered based on preference.

"If it wasn't a first-past-the-post system, I probably wouldn't vote for Joe Biden," he said. "But I have to vote for him because I'm not voting for Trump."

Isaac Campbell was in much the same boat. He said, "(Republican) John Kasich is my man," and he also was the sort of Republican who could've seen himself pull the lever for George W. Bush back in the day if he was eligible to vote.

However, he's seen the Republican Party veer too far to the right for his taste.

"The direction the party has gone is not something I'm really ready for," Campbell said. "There's just a lot of hypocrisy in the platform now. I remember Trump's inauguration, and I was one of those who maybe would give him a chance. But with every new tweet every day, you see he's only interested in himself."

Campbell, a 29-year-old graduate student at the University of Northern Iowa with a residence in Ottumwa, spent a year in Hungary and saw the oppression under that country's prime minister, Viktor Orbán. That opened his eyes to the potential peril of another Trump term.

"I'm very concerned about rebellion here no matter the outcome, and I'm very nervous about what'll happen between November and January," said Campbell, who plans to vote for Biden and will also serve as a poll worker. "Still, there is an excitement about Election Day. I know in Ottumwa we're doing what we can to ensure a safe election, but I can't sit by idly."

Don Lewis is an independent with some conservative leanings. Still, he's frustrated by both the Democratic and Republican parties for not adhering to "what George Washington's intent was for the country."

Lewis, an Air Force veteran and has seen labor battles from both the worker and management sides, hasn't voted for the Democratic nominee for president since Jimmy Carter in 1976 and will vote for Trump again this year.

"I just think politicians have no concept of why they're in Washington," he said. "I'm not a big fan of Trump's personality, but I like that he's a businessman. His intentions are for us to do well."

Trump has consistently polled poorly when it comes to his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, but Lewis is unmoved.

"He was already restricting travel from China in January, but the media won't address the fact," he said. "He knew something was going on, and I think he did as good a job as anyone. I do think the virus was manufactured by the Chinese, but Trump has no control over the disease. I'm not upset the way he handled it."

Lewis also was turned off by Biden's remarks to a Michigan blue-collar worker in March when he said, "... I don't work for you," as part of a broader conversation about gun control.

"That was the clincher for me," Lewis said. "It was impossible for me to vote for him after that."

Mary Stewart and Michele Weber have been Democrats for most of their lives. Stewart is a familiar local name, having lost to Mariannette Miller-Meeks for a state Senate seat by just over three percentage points two years ago.

Stewart, who considers herself a moderate Democrat with a few progressive policy views, has now turned her attention to activism in the community by providing signs to those who want them and serving in nonpartisan, issue-based organizations.

An early admirer of Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Stewart came around to Biden as the nominee and caucused for him. She voted for Biden on the first day of early voting.

"I was not a supporter of Trump as a candidate, but I was really hopeful he would grow into the job. With him, it's like standing on shifting sand day by day," said the 69-year-old Stewart, who worked at Indian Hills Community College for 33 years.

"I think what people want is some sort of moderation in their lives."

Weber also comes from an education background as a former teacher in the Fairfield Community School District. The 76-year-old voted early for Biden, though she has voted for both Republican and Democratic presidents in the past.

"I think it depends on who is running, but I think Trump is the most incompetent in my lifetime," Weber said. "I worry about Biden's age (77), but I feel he's very well-qualified. Biden has proved he cares more about others and listens to others' points of view."

One of the reasons Weber, who liked both Warren and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota early in the nominating process, voted for Biden was his climate change policy. As a former science teacher, she believes the former vice president is better prepared to handle it.

"It's really important to me," she said. "I worry about pollution. I want a safer world for my grandchildren, so I think you need to follow the science."

Despite their own differing viewpoints on policy, both Stewart and Lewis believe the people in the country have lost their ability to be respectful to each other despite differences, though Stewart blames Trump for stoking some of that division.

"I think presidents, as a rule, they never took a different side on how you treat people with basic respect and decency. It's like there's been a green flag that's been waved that says you don't have to pay attention to that," Stewart said.

"I just think our country has fallen so low when it comes to respecting each other and just morality," Lewis said. "Either way, I think we're headed for problems."

Chad Drury can be reached at cdrury@ottumwacourier.com, and on Twitter @ChadDrury

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