Obama or Romney? Why 5 undecided voters are still on the fence.

A.J. Dellinger, Madison, Wis.


Occupation: freelance writer

Personal: single

2008 vote: Bob Barr

A.J. Dellinger's first-ever vote for president, in 2008, went not to Obama or Mr. McCain, but to Bob Barr, the Libertarian Party candidate who got less than 1 percent of the vote.

No matter. Mr. Dellinger considers himself an independent spirit who believed that supporting a third-party alternative was crucial to eventually righting the spiraling federal deficits and rampant spending that he blames on both Democrats and Republicans.

But that was then. He now sees the value of his vote, especially in Wisconsin, a battleground state in 2012.

"To a certain extent, a third party is almost like a throwaway vote," he says now of his 2008 decision. "I didn't contribute really" to the election outcome.

Dellinger says he knows "a couple of votes can have an impact" on the Wisconsin outcome, so he plans to vote for Obama or Romney. But which one? Neither candidate is the complete package he wants – a fiscally responsible leader who can pull the United States out of economic malaise, but one who isn't "backwards" on social issues such as gay marriage and abortion rights.

This 22-year-old says, "Social issues have a fairly large impact on my decisionmaking. But I also realize this election should be more focused on economic issues. So ideally you want a candidate who can do it all, but obviously, that's not always on the plate."

Dellinger grew up in Madison with Republican parents who are small-business owners. The year he was born they opened a bait-and-tackle store that they still operate. He says his conservative mind-set was inspired by their political activism, but he also seeks out perspectives on US politics from media far and wide: Russia Times, Al Jazeera, the BBC, and Comedy Central stars Jon Stewart and Mr. Colbert.

As for Obama and Romney, Dellinger says he wishes he could vote for their former selves: the socially moderate Governor Romney of Massachusetts and the 2008 candidate Obama, who campaigned to end the war in Afghanistan and close the Guantánamo Bay detention camp.

"My real dilemma is, voting for the person who represents my views the most but who is most likely going to lose versus voting for a candidate who would most likely win and be closest in line to my views," he says.

– Mark Guarino, staff writer

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