McCain Persona Drawing Support Over Bush in Windy City

By Ben Anderson | July 7, 2008 | 8:25 PM EDT

Chicago, Ill. ( - Despite the fact that many Chicago residents know little about Arizona Senator John McCain's policy positions, self-described liberals in both parties in the metropolitan Chicago area told they are supporting McCain over Texas Governor George W. Bush.

The closed GOP primary for Illinois will be held March 21st.

But while McCain's war hero status and personality seems to carry the most weight with voters some are waiting to hear about the candidates' positions on decisions made in the Oval Office.

Sixty-five year-old Korean War veteran Dick Kastal, a finance manager for a Chicago area automobile dealership, said he's been back and forth on party affiliation, but currently considers himself a liberal Democrat and likes Republican McCain more so than any other candidate. A decision admits is based heavily on the Senator's personality traits rather than foreign or domestic policy positions.

Kastal told said he is leaning towards McCain citing the Vietnam War veteran's projected image of a "people's man." Kastal said McCain is "more down to earth." Former New Jersey Democrat Senator Bill Bradley, he said, is "not a bad man."

But as for how any of the candidates most closely represent his views on the issues, Kastal indicates that he's uncertain about where the presidential job seekers stand on matters such as taxes, China's World Trade Organization status and Human Rights record.

Among the few things clear about the 2000 presidential race in and around Chicago is that voters say they haven't heard much about where any of the candidates stand on the issues.

New York native and Illinois transplant Kelley Stafford, a restaurant manager in Chicago's Democrat stronghold of Lincoln Park, is still in the process deciding whether to vote for McCain or Bush. Stafford considers herself more of a liberal Republican and is leaning towards McCain, although she admits to liking the Arizona Senator based primarily upon the "style, charisma and ideas" has presented.

"I'm kind of watching Bush to see what comes of that. I like McCain. I think he could make great strides but I don't think he has the money," Stafford told "I like Bush but I don't know if he has the experience that he needs. And I'm not really sure if he's all for show."

But when pushed further to identify what specifically what she likes about McCain's positions, Stafford admitted that perhaps she could pay more attention to the race.

"One of the faults I kind of have with McCain is that he hasn't taken a huge stand on anything. Bush, on the other hand, has gotten out there and stated what he believes."

As for Bush, Stafford said she is more liberal than the Texas Governor but not so liberal as to vote for Bradley or Gore, whom she believes is more of a show-horse more likely to retain some of the policies and characteristics of the Clinton Administration.

"I don't see any clear definition on where any of the candidates stand on the issues," said 27-year-old Michael Hewitt, a youth minister in nearby Elmhurst who said it is important to him a candidate's views on abortion.

Hewitt admits that what he knows about the candidates comes from local and established network news organizations, but adds that he intends to brief himself on where Bush and McCain stand on the issues.

Radio talk show host and former Ambassador Alan Keyes appeals to Hewitt's pro-life stance, but he told that Keyes' chances of winning the GOP nomination are slim.

Another Elmhurst resident, Phyllis Butt, a local bank branch manager, said she is an Independent and is following the race. Though she said she is leaning towards McCain, she cited that she is "just not sure" about Bush.

Asked if she holds deep feelings about where the candidates stand on the issues, Butt contends that there is no single issue that elevates one candidate over the other, "since they're never that far apart."

As Winnetka, Illinois, fire fighter Steve Pearson barbequed chicken for his fellow officers, he wasn't shy about roasting Bush for allowing McCain to encroach so far on what had been a double-digit lead in some states.

"He's doing a stellar job following in his dad's footsteps," Pearson said, referring to the circumstances surrounding President George Bush's 1992 performance in New Hampshire.

Pearson said he hasn't followed the race all that much since there is too much effort in campaigning rather than letting voters know what they believe.

Still, Pearson said he is leaning towards McCain, adding that he'd be a fresh face. Asked who he would vote for if he was voting for a Democrat, Pearson said he would probably choose Bradley, citing Gore's association with President Bill Clinton.

Deeper in the city, self described liberal Democrat John Quinlan sees no other way to vote than for Vice President Al Gore, citing the vice president's position on the environmental issues.

"Everything being equal, I think he's a good solid Democrat. I think they've done a good job," Quinlan said, standing in the upholstery shop which bares his name.

"I like Bradley, but the more I see of Gore, the more I think he's done a good job and I think he'll be a solid candidate."

Asked if his choices were limited to the field of Republican candidates, Quinlan paused before offering, "It would be hard for me to vote for either one of those guys to tell you the truth. But I would probably vote for Bush," Quinlan said before his sister standing nearby is taken aback, pretending to be faint.

"We've got to have a long talk," she exclaimed.

Quinlan insists that voting for McCain or Bush could be fine as both are "very qualified" for the job.

Bush has a grass-roots organization spanning into every county in Illinois with 3,500 volunteers, 2,500 of whom were responsible for getting Bush on the March 7 primary ballot.

Bush's Illinois spokesman John Pastuovic told that the campaign is gearing up for an extensive get-out-the-vote effort in March.

McCain's Illinois organization consists of two campaign co-chairs, one GOP source said.