By Andy Ostmeyer
While many undecided voters likely watched Wednesday night’s presidential debate for a signal that would tip them one way or the other, hundreds of people in Southwest Missouri have not only made up their minds but are backing their man with money.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, nearly $83,000 had been given directly to either Republican Mitt Romney or Democrat Barack Obama through Aug. 31 by people living in Jasper and Newton counties. Sixty-three donations totaling $70,736 went to Romney; 47 donations worth $12,162 went to Obama.
The numbers reflect only direct contributions of $200 or more to the candidates. The totals do not include so-called soft money that individuals in Southwest Missouri have given to candidates through political action committees, or through party organizations and committees.
According to the Federal Election Commission, contributions must be listed separately on disclosure reports once the total received from a person exceeds $200 in an election cycle. Less than that, and the total can be aggregated together by the campaign.
Elliott Denniston, a retiree living in Webb City, is typical of Democratic donors, who gave an average of $258 per contribution. Denniston gave $300 to Obama on Aug. 22, according to the nonpartisan center, based in Washington, D.C.
“I am scared to death that the Republicans — whether it is deliberate or not — are out to destroy the middle class, or rather the effect of their policies is to destroy the middle class,” he said.
Denniston said he also is concerned that Republicans led by Romney would attempt to tear apart the social safety net in the country. He specifically mentioned fears about the fate of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid if Romney is elected.
Denniston said he also is concerned about the growing disparity between the wealthy and the rest of the country. He said the wealthy are paying less in taxes and have seen their net wealth grow while the middle class has stagnated. It is not only inherently unfair, he said, but also destabilizing the nation.
“It’s very unhealthy for the country to have these huge divisions between the very tiny number of people who are extremely wealthy and all the rest of us,” he said.
Gene Schwartz, of Neosho, countered Denniston’s contribution with two of his own to Romney, one in April and the second in July, totaling $1,250. He’s typical of the Republican donors from Southwest Missouri, who averaged $1,122 per donation through the end of August.
Schwartz owns a manufacturing company, K&S Wire, and said there is a “stark difference” between the two candidates from the standpoint of business. He said he believes Romney’s experience in the private sector makes him better prepared to lead the country during a period of high unemployment and sluggish growth.
The president, he noted, has no business experience.
“I think Romney is our only chance to turn it around,” Schwartz said.
“I just feel our current president is a socialist,” he said, specifically citing growing government control and regulation, which he said has been choking off business growth in the past few years.
“It’s detrimental to manufacturing,” he said of the regulations.
TO TRACK POLITICAL DONATIONS, people may go to the website of the Center for Responsive Politics at www.opensecrets.org.