Questioning National Priorities

American Voices
In its ongoing series, "American Voices," CBS Evening News – Weekend Edition speaks to voters from all over the country. Here is a visit with voters in Michigan

The unemployment rate in Michigan is 6.9 percent, more than a percentage point above the national average.

Those numbers aren't just statistics to the two voters we met there.

Lou Johnston, a 59-year-old tool and die maker who lives outside of Detroit with his wife and son, is paying close attention to the upcoming election for president. "I vote more the person than the party - I voted for several Republicans for president and I also voted for Democrats for president."

Art Schaupeter is also following the presidential race. What connects the two men is Ronart Industries, where Lou Johnston worked until February, when he was laid off. "I still like to look at the candidates for the different positions, but historically I've probably voted stronger Republican more than anything else."

Schaupeter owns Ronart Industries. His company makes the big stamping dies that punch out truck and car parts for Detroit's Big Three automakers. In good times - just three years ago - more than 180 people worked here. Now Ronart employs just 50 people. Most of the lost jobs went to India and China where labor is cheaper.

Johnston reflects, "I didn't think it would happen - being there for 20 years, but it got to the point to where's there just wasn't enough work," reflects Johnston. "I would like to see some of the outsourcing stopped. I think that the idea of taking care of our own people first rather than we try to take care of everybody else in the world."

Schaupeter suggests the administration is distracted. "I think where they need to work harder is at home. Keep Americans employed and get better control on health care issues."

Health care reform is also important to Lou Johnston. Out of work, he now has to pay $1250 a month to keep his medical insurance. His wife, Suzanne, has been ill for the past nine months.

"I can see what's happened personally with my wife's condition that if a person didn't have the medical insurance - I don't know what we would have done - we would have been bankrupted," says Johnston.

Both Johnston and Schaupeter haven't been convinced yet by what they are hearing from George Bush or John Kerry on the campaign trail.

Schaupeter says, "Now that we do know that it's Kerry, I've left the door open just to see what his proposals are and what he would do to try to fix the things at home in this country."

Johnston says, "I don't like the stances that Kerry has supported, but I really don't like a lot of the things from Bush. So right now, yeah, I'd say I probably dislike Kerry less than I dislike Bush."

Recent polls show Democratic candidate John Kerry leading President Bush in Michigan, with the election, 7 months away.