Mitt Romney vs. Barack Obama: Who gets the dog owners vote?
The 2012 presidential campaign has gone to the dogs. But who is winning the Doggy Wars? What pet owners say about their vote.
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"Really, both issues are stupid, given what we are wrestling with as a country," said Patricia Warne, a research scientist who lives in Rockland County, north of New York City, and owns four dogs — three border collies and a dachshund. Yet the Romney episode bothered her. "Given the money he has, couldn't he have found some other way to transport his family and the dog? I wouldn't put a dog up there any more than I would a kid."Skip to next paragraph
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Still, Warne said, she considered it more an organizational failing on Romney's part — "a lack of planning" — than a moral one. And since she is a solid Democrat, it hadn't affected her choice of candidate.
Not so Jennifer Mohr, who's still deciding whom to support. Mohr, of Hollywood, Fla., owns a company that makes candles for dogs. Though she voted for Obama last time, she said she was disappointed in some of his failed promises and was considering Romney — until she heard about the Seamus incident.
"As soon as he put the dog on the roof of the car, I bailed," she said. "I don't understand what that man was thinking. I can't get my head around it!"
Virtually everyone interviewed gave Obama a pass on the dog meat, calling it a cultural difference. That included Ron Friedman, a Romney supporter from Gurnee, Ill., proud owner of a Pomeranian shih tzu.
"He was a young kid," said Friedman, who works in the health care industry. "It was the practice in that country. I won't make this an issue when it's not."
Of Romney's Seamus trip, he said, "I understand how some people think this is over the top — no pun intended. But I live in a rural area. People here have their dogs out all year round. Now, if there were two dogs and one flew off ..."
Friedman added that he thinks the whole Seamus affair is a "cynical ploy" — as is the dog-meat issue. He wants to see more substance. "Is this the worst they have on Romney? At least attack him on the issues!"
Sherry Butler, another shih tzu owner who works in marketing in Phoenix, was horrified to hear of the Seamus anecdote, which she didn't know about beforehand. "Are you kidding me?" she asked. "I would never do that ever! My dog is like my son."
However, Butler, an independent who is still deciding whom to support, said she still thinks it doesn't bear on Romney's fitness to be president. "What it tells me about him is that as a dog lover, he doesn't feel the way I do," she said. "I won't disregard it. But it won't be the deciding factor."
Carol Bryant doesn't agree. The 43-year-old Democrat — and cocker spaniel owner — thinks the episode does reflect on Romney. "It says something about the character of a candidate," said Bryant, of Forty-Fort, Pa. "I'm mortified by it, and I do believe there's a place in the campaign for discussion of it."
To media critic Jeff Jarvis, the whole affair is a reflection of where we've come in political campaigns. "One blemish is an opportunity to bring somebody down," he said. "It's all distracting and silly, and it's dangerous when taken seriously."
Scott Crider says it is serious, though — especially for prized female voters. The founder of Dogs Against Romney says more than 60 percent of his Facebook "friends" are women. "They're saying, 'I can't support this guy,'" says Crider, who calls himself an independent and says he has had no contact with the Obama campaign.
Interestingly, one person who doesn't seem to take it too seriously is the president of PETA, or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
"As an individual, it irritates me when there is any talk of anything that doesn't settle on the core issues," said Ingrid Newkirk, stressing that she was speaking for herself. "And if we want to talk about treatment of animals in this country," she added, "there are far more serious issues to talk about."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.