LAS VEGAS -- In order to understand how deeply ingrained Republican hatred for President Barack Obama truly is, you need only ask one question: What would the president have to do to win your support?
It's rhetorical. There is nothing the president could do, save become a Republican himself, to placate many angry Republican voters. But when asked to at least consider the idea of backing him, the answers people give can be revealing.
"I wouldn't go across the street if he paid me $500," said Steve Voss, a resident of Henderson, Nevada, who watched former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney address several hundred supporters Friday evening. "I'd throw a rock at him. All right, maybe a water balloon."
Voss' tone shifted seamlessly between playful and angry. He is not an ideologue. He's worried about the deficit and the housing market, particularly in his home state. He acknowledges that Romney's desire to see the foreclosure crisis play itself out isn't exactly his cup of tea. He wants the banks to feel more pressure to restructure loans and he thinks Obama hasn't done enough on that front.
"Smaller banks are being pushed out of business," he said. "You can't favor big banks."
Voss believes that the country faces a potentially cataclysmic budget crisis, but there are some cuts he thinks go too far. A 22-year veteran, he doesn't want military spending levels tweaked. He also wants his pension protected. Pressed a bit more about his animus toward the president, he concedes that what Obama inherited from President George W. Bush wasn't all that pretty.
"I don't think [John] McCain could have done that much better," he said. But that's hardly an excuse for staying the course. "We need someone to blow things up."
Nicole McGreary, another Henderson resident, wants Romney to essentially blow things up as well. And unlike a large portion of the Republican Party, she is deeply enthused about his candidacy, considering him both virtuous -- "What personal agenda would he personally have other than to see the country prosper?" -- and ideal for the times. Asked what it would take her to switch her allegiance over to Obama, she can only summon one scenario.
"He would have to move to some other country for me to consider voting for him," she said.
Like Voss, McGreary is tough to pigeonhole. She doesn't like being called a "conservative," because of the implication that she might be a member of the religious right. She believes in gay marriage and said she thinks it's fine for states, not the federal government, to legalize abortion. Her disdain for the president is tied to his health care law and his energy policy -- from his administration's support for Solyndra, the failed solar energy company that received federal loans, to its opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline.
Mostly, however, it's about Obama's personality.
"I believe he is a liar," she said. "He contradicts himself time after time."
Standing next to her as she spoke was McGreary's father, Doug, who moved to Henderson eleven years ago. He considers himself a student of politics. In the middle of his conversation with HuffPost he brought up "A Time for Choosing," Ronald Reagan's famous 1964 televised address in support of Barry Goldwater's presidential campaign. Without missing a beat, he noted that it's 27 minutes long and "absolutely worth watching."
Like his daughter, Doug served as a precinct captain during the caucus on Friday. Also like his daughter, he can't stand the president. He's been voting for more than four decades now and insists that this election "is not only the most important election in my lifetime, I think it is the most important event in our nation's history in the past 100 years."
It is clearly a bit outlandish to place the 2012 election above D-Day, Pearl Harbor, 9/11 and other momentous events in terms of historical significance. But these are the tones in which many anti-Obama voters speak. While attending a Romney event outside of Tampa, Florida just under two weeks ago, Dunai Berrios, a Cuban-American immigrant, explained why she couldn't back the current president.
"We don't want this wonderful country to become Cuba," she said of the communist nation she left in 1980.
And it's not just people past the voting age who operate with these perceptions. Standing in line to enter Friday night's Henderson rally, Stephanie Collinsworth handed her daughter Brooke a postcard-like flyer that had a tiny photo of Obama near the bottom of it.
"I don't want it!" Brooke replied angrily, attempting to throw the flyer back to her mother. "There's a picture of Obama on there!"
Brooke, her mother confirmed, is five years old.
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