A changed man

Up until two Fridays ago, when CN&R editors gathered to decide on presidential endorsements, I felt certain whose name I’d check Feb. 5. I voted for John Edwards in 2004, even when it was obvious that John Kerry had locked up the nomination. (Stomach … still … hurting …) Heading into ’08, I again envisioned Edwards in the White House.

He stands up against the military-industrial complex and for workers and the middle class. He’s got wit, charisma and backbone. And there’s that soft-pedal euphemism pundits love to throw around: electability.

So last year at this time, when I predicted an Edwards-Obama ticket, it was as much about idealism as pragmatism. I felt just as strongly in the fall and through the holidays.

Now I’m a changed man.

I’m voting for Barack Obama.

And that’s not a choice by default. My shift came before Edwards decided to withdraw on Wednesday (right at CN&R’s deadline—not the kind of change I’m looking for).

I didn’t focus on polls or primaries. I didn’t look for a bandwagon to ride. No Obamania here—he’s an inspiring speaker, riveting even, but not irresistibly hypnotic.

I just came to realize that he’s the guy with whom I most see eye to eye.

I knew I needed to research all the candidates carefully before weighing in on endorsements. I reflected on recent debates. I looked at campaign Web sites, news stories and the League of Women Voters’ SmartVote.org.

What cemented the shift was SelectSmart.com.

SelectSmart’s Presidential Candidate Selector features 26 questions about issues and qualifications, with a toggle switch to denote importance. I took the quiz and was stunned by the results: Obama ranked first, scoring 86 percent, while Edwards ranked fourth at 73 percent—behind even Hillary Clinton, who’s not my cup of Lady Grey.

I decided to try some other surveys. After all, as any pollster knows, the wording of questions affects the answers.

On WQAD.com and the outlet that inspired its quiz, Minnesota Public Radio, I got Obama first, Clinton second, Edwards after.

Forbes: Obama second, behind Bill Richardson.

GoToQuiz: Obama second, behind Chris Dodd.

On The Issues: Clinton first, Obama second, Edwards fifth.

The odd one out was Glass Booth: Edwards and Obama both trailed Mike Gravel, with Clinton fourth.

These online applications didn’t make the decision for me. I’m not that lazy or TiVo-ized. They simply provided quick comparisons of the candidates in relation to my stances on issues.

I think we should systematically phase out our military presence in Iraq. Our next president also should be willing to talk with potential enemies (i.e., Iran) before threatening them. Health care and Social Security should be reformed in ways that serve the public interest, not private profiteers. Alternative energy and restructured mortgages are the kind of economic stimuli that make sense.

Obama shares these priorities, with specific ideas that match mine more closely than Edwards’ did. The fact that he’s a charismatic presence doesn’t hurt, either.

“Change we can believe in”—I believe.