August 27, 2012

Off the Trail: Obama, Romney, whoever. Here, it's the thoughts that count

By Bob Keyes
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Members of the North Pownal Think Tank gather in their 8-by-8-foot headquarters.

Photos by Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

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Wedgie Wheeler, right, makes a point as he discusses politics with his friends, from left, Chris Lutes, Alan Bradstreet and David Norman inside the cozy North Pownal Think Tank.

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His buddies laugh.

"It's about the level of trust. No matter where you stand on issues, it really boils down to how you feel that person in office will deal with these issues," he says, adding that he trusts Obama's instincts more than Romney's.

Like a lot of Mainers, Bradstreet describes himself as a no-nonsense fiscal conservative. He comes from what he calls poor roots, but he's always had money because he has saved it and managed it wisely. He and his wife paid off their mortgage a long time ago. Their lives are anything but extravagant. His stinginess is a source of pride, as is the fact that he has made a good life as a small-business entrepreneur.

Of these four friends, Wheeler may have the most to lose or gain in the presidential election. Certainly, he's got the most to fret over.

He's probably voting for Romney, although he admits that he's not "made up my mind 100 percent."

He retired early last September from BIW to take care of his wife, Evelyn, who is on kidney dialysis and drives three days a week to Bath for treatment. Evelyn's medications cost $2,100 a month. Not counting his monthly insurance premiums, Wheeler has spent $4,700 this year on out-of-pocket health care costs.

Wheeler and his wife grow many of their own vegetables, and recently put up 35 pints of green beans and cucumbers. They enjoy gardening, but they especially like saving money at the grocery store. Even a slight increase in food and gas prices is devastating, he says.

"It's going to get worse. My income is going to stay the same. I'm retired and on a fixed income," he says.

The talk of universal health care has left him more confused than encouraged. The law makes no sense to him, and he suspects most of the lawmakers who voted on the legislation don't understand it either. He is certain they haven't read it.

Wheeler worries about coming across as a complainer. He understands things are complicated for everybody, and there are no easy answers to his problems or the country's problems.

One day at a time, he says.

"I'm just ... I'm a Mainer ... I'm just going to plug along, do the best I can every day, get up happy that I can put my feet on the edge of the bed and stand up."

If Obama or Romney shows up to talk to these guys, that's what they will hear, too: Do your best -- and good luck.

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or:

Twitter: pphbkeyes


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