On the eve of the United States presidential election, neither candidate has emerged as a favourite. The lack of enthusiasm among the electorate is mirrored by Swiss-American voters from key swing states surveyed by swissinfo.ch.
The battleground state of Pennsylvannia has traditionally leaned slightly to the Democrats, but since Republican challenger Mitt Romney’s victory in the first televised debate on October 3 it has become an attractive target for the Republicans.
Annemarie Frick, who lives in Pittsburgh in the west of the state, plans to vote for President Barack Obama, as she did in 2008. But even this “political junkie” has lost some of her enthusiasm for Obama.
“Like many people who voted for Obama, I’m a little bit disappointed. On the other hand, I know that the president can’t do much especially when Republicans in Congress are blocking every one of his ideas,” said the language teacher who originates from the Swiss city of St Gallen.
“It’s disappointing that he could not work more with the other side. He had a Democratic majority in Congress for his first two years, but sometimes, he didn’t have the full support of his own party.”
It’s the economy
The economic crisis, which has afflicted the country since 2007 with associated job losses, foreclosures, and high public and private debt levels, has been voters’ number one preoccupation.
Frick confirmed this: “The economy is my main concern, just like most of the people I know here.”
Florida is a heavyweight state, offering 29 electoral college votes, the most of any swing state.
In Boca Raton, the location of the last televised presidential debate, Rolf Marti said unemployment and foreclosures were big problems.
But the retired Swiss-American from Zurich, who married a Colombian-American, is more concerned by the huge levels of public debt – over $16 trillion.
“Everyobody points the finger at Bush, but Obama has been in there for four years. He’s had Democrats in control of the Senate and the House for the first two years,” said Marti, who plans to vote for Romney. “Obama is president only because he’s black and a good speaker - but with a teleprompter.”
In Nevada, the state most affected by unemployment, the Stettler family cannot agree on who is the best candidate.
Kurt Stettler, originally from the Swiss town of Eggiswil, has chosen to live in Sparks with his daughter Annette for both health and financial reasons.
He says Obama is “not really qualified for the presidency, as he has never worked in the private sector and everything he’s done was through the government”.
Stettler is giving Romney his protest vote.
“I don’t like all of Romney’s business practices but overall I think he would be much better than Obama and I don’t want four more years of Obama,” he added.
His daughter, however, says she will be voting for the current president, but is less passionate than in 2008.
She almost lost her job with the Nevada state authorities and her salary has been decreased. She does not blame Obama, however, pointing out that he “had a mess to deal with when he came in” and “he’s trying to help people who are struggling”.
But she admitted the president had disapppinted her and his record in office was vague.
“I’m sick of politics,” she added. “I’ll vote because I don’t want Romney to win. He has no idea what it means to be middle class.”
Obama has the strong support of Chantal Aeschbach-Powell, however, who manages the branch of a Swiss firm in Winchester, Virginia.
“I’m not disappointed by Obama. Number one: you can’t make lots of changes in just four years. Number two: with what he inherited, you can’t expect miracles,” said Aeschbach-Powell, who grew up in Geneva.
The mother of three, who said she knew lots of people out of work, said she was especially concerned by politicians’ failure to work together to pull the US out of the current crisis.
“You teach your children to get together and work togeher, so it’s amazing that politicians forget to remember that simple test,” she commented. “Obama could have worked a little bit harder, crossing party lines to work with others.”
Nevertheless, she could not imagine voting any other way.
“I don’t find Romney to be an honest and trustworthy person, plus there’s no way that I, as a woman, would vote for him because of [Paul] Ryan [Romney’s running mate]; some of Ryan’s thoughts are extreme,” she noted.
Tony Zgraggen, who is a businessman from Wisconsin, the state where Ryan comes from, rejected this idea.
“Ryan is not an extreme person. I support him on his plan to cut the deficit and the debt,” said Zgraggen, 58, who originates from the Swiss town of Erstfeld.
Meanwhile, the economic crisis has badly affected voters who do not strongly associate themselves with either party.
Zgraggen is one such ‘independent’ voter, who has switched sides in the past: “I voted for Obama in 2008, but he was way too giving with social programmes; he thinks that people who work hard are all rich, he has not created jobs, he doesn’t understand the economy and I just feel the country is not on the right track.”
This time he plans to vote Republican – in protest.
Hans Moser is vice-president of the Republican Party for his North Carolina precinct, but admitted that this time round passion was sorely missing.
“I’m not enthusiastic about the [Romney-Ryan] ticket,” he said.
His reservations towards the Republican duo do not stem from Romney’s religious Mormon background, however.
“Mormons are not full size Christians, in fact they have made up their own christianity. It’s bothersome, of course, but it’s not the essential. Romney is for our ideals, he accepts the Creator as the Almighty and he does that very clearly as far as abortion,” said Moser, who grew up in Bern.
“What bothers me with Romney is that he has changed his positions several times on various topics,” said Moser, who added that he had two strong reasons for voting for him. “He has my vote because we have no alternative; also, Israel is very important to us Evangelicals and we believe that Romney is the better man.”
Switzerland and the US
There are around 1.2 million Swiss-Americans and Americans with Swiss roots.
Of the 75,637 Swiss nationals registered in the United States at the end of 2011, 52,093 were dual citizens.
Of an estimated six million Americans living abroad in 160 different countries, roughly 30,000 are registered in Switzerland.
To the wire
The US president is not chosen by the nationwide popular vote, but in state-by-state contests that allocate electoral votes known as the "electoral college". Each state gets one electoral vote for each of its seats in the House of Representatives, as determined by population.
Every state has two seats in the Senate, guaranteeing an additional two electors. That means there are 538 electoral votes, including three for Washington, D.C., of which the winning candidate must have 50%, plus one, or 271.
National polls show the race is a virtual dead heat in terms of the popular vote. But analysis shows Obama with more paths to victory in the electoral college, gathering the required 271 electoral votes from 21 states leaning his way, including Ohio, Wisconsin and Iowa.
Romney seems on track for 206 electoral votes from 23 states, including North Carolina. Obama won that state in 2008 and campaigned aggressively there this year. But Obama's team acknowledges it is the most difficult state for him to win, and he's paid less attention to it recently.
Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire and Virginia, with a combined 61 votes at stake, could go either way.end of infobox
(Translated from French by Simon Bradley), swissinfo.ch