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What drives your vote?

Jennifer Pernell

37, supports John McCain 

McCain's choice of Sarah Palin converted Pernell, mother of 4-year-old autistic twins, Darren, left, and Daniel, from Obama's camp.
Jennifer Pernell 37, supports John McCain McCain's choice of Sarah Palin converted Pernell, mother of 4-year-old autistic twins, Darren, left, and Daniel, from Obama's camp.

For some, it’s the war. Others say it’s the economy.

Then there’s health care, taxes and a host of other issues that will push people to the polls Tuesday.

This presidential election — the first without an incumbent in eight years — is expected to draw more voters than any recent race. So The Herald asked four of them:

Lorie Pressley

Lorie Pressley agrees with Barack Obama's approach to education and the economy.

He doesn't see eye-to-eye with Obama on immigration, but he likes the candidate's health care plan.

And there's something else, an emotional reason, that the 21-year-old says is important.

"I'd be dishonest if I didn't say it," he said. "I'm inspired by his story."

Pressley, a Winthrop University student, didn't plan on voting, despite his mother's pleas that he should.

He initially favored Hillary Clinton, but he started looking at Obama when the Illinois senator won the Iowa caucus.

What convinced him to vote for Obama also is what attracted much criticism of the Democratic candidate.

The way Obama dealt with the firestorm over comments made by his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, solidified Pressley's vote.

"I really admired the way he handled it," he said. "He was just so calm, cool and collected."

Along with addressing the Wright controversy, Pressley said there's another reason why he respects Obama.

"I never thought in my lifetime that ... we would ever see an African-American candidate basically defy all odds," he said. "My vote isn't just solely based on him being African-American. But that one thing alone inspires me beyond everything. It lets me know that in this lifetime, I can do exactly whatever it is that I want to do."

Jennifer Pernell

Jennifer Pernell voted for Barack Obama in the South Carolina Democratic primary.

But the 37-year-old now has a McCain-Palin sign in front of her Lesslie home.

The mother of three who works as a pharmacy technician at Carolinas Medical Center in Pineville, N.C., said she initially supported Obama because she was dissatisfied with the Republican candidates.

Specifically, she thought John McCain was weak on illegal immigration.

"I thought if there's not a good Republican candidate running, I need to look more to the Democrats," she said. "With the dissatisfaction with Bush, I didn't think a Republican had a chance to win."

Several things changed her mind.

The first was the scandal involving Obama's pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. To be sure she wasn't hearing misleading sound bites, Pernell watched Wright's radical sermons online on YouTube.

"If you watched those sermons, there's no way to take his comments out of context," she said.

She also found Obama's views on abortion to be extreme.

Pernell started looking closely at the platform of the Arizona senator.

After McCain picked Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, Pernell watched Palin give a speech on television.

At one point, Palin told parents of children with disabilities that she'd be an advocate for them in Washington. Palin's fifth child has Down syndrome.

"I started crying," said Pernell, who has 4-year-old twin boys with autism. "What we need is an advocate."

Pernell was inspired by Palin's simple lifestyle.

"The fact that she goes to PTA meetings, the fact that she cooks her own food, the fact that she takes her kids to doctors' appointments and they rely on family to help take care of their children," she said. "I can relate to that."

But Pernell isn't a one-dimensional voter. She doesn't want Bush's tax cuts to expire, and she hopes McCain will keep that from happening.

Still, she admits that without Palin she'd have to hold her nose to vote for McCain.

"Because of Palin, I feel better about it," she said. "I'm proud about it, actually."

Shannon Benton

With three friends fighting in Iraq, the war is easily the most important issue to 18-year-old Shannon Benton.

"I don't think that you should pull out halfway of something you've already started," said the Winthrop University student who supports John McCain for president.

"Many people underestimate what's going on over there and they feel like it's unnecessary," she said. "But with me having personal, very close friends that are overseas right now, they want to be there. They want to help these people."

Benton was raised by conservative parents, and politics have a particular importance in her family.

She registered to vote a week after her 18th birthday.

"When Bush was running for president, it was a really big thing in my family," she said. "It was almost like a family event to watch all the debates and the election."

Benton, who hopes someday to be a first-grade teacher, does like some of Barack Obama's policies, specifically those dealing with education.

But while watching the debates, she said, McCain emerged as the clear choice for her. Along with his stance on the war, she agrees with his tax policy.

She's excited to vote for him.

"It almost feels like an honor to be able to vote now," she said, a reference to her political upbringing. "My little person point of view is going to be used as some part to change the country."

Steve DiStasio

Steve DiStasio felt betrayed by George W. Bush.

Having voted twice for Bill Clinton, the typically left-leaning DiStasio cast his ballot for Bush in 2000 because he wanted a fiscal conservative in the White House.

"I feel like I got duped," the 34-year-old said. "The biggest concern for me (now) is the way that Bush and the other Republicans have run up the debt and really caused a lot of economic problems because of that."

DiStasio said he will vote for Barack Obama.

"If you listen to what he says, 95 percent of people will get a tax cut," he said. "That pretty much is everybody except for the top 5 percent who, in my opinion, don't need it."

A father of two, DiStasio lives with his family in Rock Hill and he works as a district manager for Interlake, an Illinois-based material handling company.

Until a few months ago, the most important election issue to him was the Iraq war. Now, he said, it's economics.

"The two are very much tied together," he said. "A lot of our economic problems can be, I think, attributed to the war because it's an economic drain."

DiStasio also sees Obama as the kind of leader who will guide the country away from bitter partisan politics.

"It just seems to me that he is not willing to do anything to win," he said. "He wants to win on the issues. I would think that once he's in office, it's going to be that much more about solving problems and issues rather than sticking it to the Republicans every chance he gets."

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