Hyde Park em­braces old neigh­bor, shuns GOP

Obama wildly pop­u­lar near Chicago home

The Washington Times Daily - - Politics - BY SETHMCLAUGHLIN

CHICAGO| Pres­i­dent Obama still has boat­loads of fans — and seem­ingly no po­lit­i­cal en­e­mies — in his old back­yard of Hyde Park, the neigh­bor­hood from where he launched the po­lit­i­cal ca­reer that even­tu­ally landed him in the White House.

Voter af­ter voter at the Beu­lah Shoe­smith School polling sta­tion, blocks from Mr. Obama’s Chicago home, said they’re stick­ing in the pres­i­dent’s corner and dis­missed the Re­pub­li­can can­di­dates, say­ing Mr. Obama would be en­joy­ing more suc­cess if Repub­li­cans weren’t so in­tent on block­ing ev­ery leg­isla­tive pro­posal he of­fered up.

“He can’t do any­thing about it with­out help and if he can’t get the Repub­li­cans to agree on any­thing or com­pro­mise on any­thing, what can the man do?” said An­drew Preer, 72, adding that he was vot­ing for Mr. Obama be­cause “He’s a Hyde-parker man, it is as sim­ple as that.”

Ken Smikle, who has called this area home for 25 years, took the crit­i­cism of Repub­li­cans a step fur­ther.

“I think he has done well, and I think he could have done even bet­ter had not the op­po­si­tion been so racially mo­ti­vated, racially driven — at least that is what is be­ing used to drive a wedge on par­ti­san is­sues,” the 60-yearold said. “It is send­ing our coun­try back­wards.”

Vot­ers in Illi­nois went to the polls for pri­maries on Tues­day, not only in the Re­pub­li­can and Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial races (though the lat­ter is a for­mal­ity), but also in con­gres­sional elec­tions.

At least in Hyde Park, home to the Univer­sity of Chicago, where Mr. Obama once taught law stu­dents, the Re­pub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates’ at­tacks have made no head­way.

On Mon­day, for­mer Mas­sachusetts Gov. Mitt Rom­ney used a speech at the univer­sity to ac­cuse the pres­i­dent of at­tack­ing “the cor­ner­stone of Amer­i­can pros­per­ity: our eco­nomic free­dom.”

“If we don’t change course now, this as­sault on free­dom could dam­age our econ­omy and the well-be­ing of Amer­i­can fam­i­lies for decades to come,” he said.

Rick San­to­rum, mean­while, cast the elec­tion in more apoc­a­lyp­tic terms, warn­ing that Pres­i­dent Rea­gan’s fear that free­dom will end could come to fruition if Mr. Obama is re-elected and his fed­eral health care over­haul stays in place.

“He said free­dom is never more than one gen­er­a­tion away from ex­tinc­tion,” the for­mer se­na­tor from Penn­syl­va­nia said, al­lud­ing to Rea­gan at a cam­paign stop Mon­day in Dixon, Ill., where the for­mer pres­i­dent lived as a boy. Vot­ers here re­jected that.

“I just think they are out­ra­geously ridicu­lous,” said Cather­ine M. Mardikes, a li­brar­ian at the Univer­sity of Chicago who has lived in the neigh­bor­hood off and on since 1979. “They are go­ing back to the 1950s.”

The 57-year-old expressed dis­gust with the robo­call she said she re­ceived from the San­to­rum camp about “ho­mo­sex­u­als tak­ing over,” and said she op­posed Re­pub­li­can can­di­dates’ stances in the re­cent fights over con­tra­cep­tion and Iran’s nu­clear pro­gram.

She also ques­tioned Mr. Rom­ney’s con­sis­tency, echo­ing a line of at­tack that his ri­vals have used against him.

“Who knows what Rom­ney re­ally thinks any­way?” she asked rhetor­i­cally.

On the pol­icy stances that Repub­li­cans at­tack, vot­ers said they were gen­er­ally pleased with what the pres­i­dent has done — and wished Repub­li­cans would be more will­ing to work with him.

Bill Mor­ri­son said the stim­u­lus pack­age has helped re­vive the econ­omy and could have done more if Repub­li­cans did not stand in the way. “I think we would be in worse shape with­out it, and I think it would have worked bet­ter if it were larger,” the 81-year-old said. His wife, Kate, ap­plauded the health care over­haul.

“Although not at all per­fect, it cer­tainly will cover a lot of peo­ple who would not be cov­ered oth­er­wise,” the 79-year-old woman said.

An­other res­i­dent, Jim Mont­gomery, said the pres­i­dent has also made strides on the for­eign front — though he hasn’t gone far enough for the 80-year-old lawyer’s tastes.

“In terms of for­eign pol­icy, he has got­ten rid of a lot of the feel­ings across the world of Amer­ica be­ing an ugly place and peo­ple who ba­si­cally run roughshod over peo­ple,” Mr. Mont­gomery said. “I would like to see him be a lit­tle less of a hawk, can­didly in places like Afghanistan where you have a coun­try that is go­ing to be in tur­moil whether you stay there or leave.”

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