RENO — If Val Keller is any indication, President Obama has his work cut out for him if he’s going to carry the battleground state of Nevada again this election.
After chatting Friday with the Democratic president around the family’s kitchen table for about 15 minutes, Keller said she’s leaning toward voting for him in November but hasn’t decided for sure.
“I’m one of those undecided people,” Keller, 66, told reporters in her driveway after the presidential motorcade had left. “I’m still watching the economy. That’s going to make my decision.”
Her comments reflect what political observers say is a neck-and-neck race between Obama and Republican Mitt Romney in the swing state that Obama won with 55 percent of the vote in 2008.
Obama became the first Democrat to win Republican-leaning Washoe County since Lyndon Johnson in 1964, but he faces a taller task this time around given Nevada’s sluggish economy.
“I’m a Republican but I vote for the man, not for the party. Right now, I’m not sure about either one of them,” said Elizabeth Hoover, 70, who lives down the street from the Kellers in the middle class neighborhood on the north side of Reno.
Hoover cast her first presidential ballot for Democrat John Kennedy in 1960. She said she’s been told she is a descendant of President Herbert Hoover. She said Obama is “not doing a bad job.”
“He needs to address getting more people back to work, whatever it takes,” she said.
Obama met with Keller and her husband, Paul, to help put a real face on the nation’s housing woes. He said the couple had benefited from executive action he took that made it easier to refinance a mortgage and is now saving $240 a month.
“That’s real money,” Obama said during a chat around the pine kitchen table at the Keller home.
Val Keller told reporters afterward that she didn’t want to “talk about my politics” and declined to say who she voted for in 2008. But she said her family was excited about Obama’s visit.
“He’s very charming. He asked us questions about ourselves. It was just kind of a quiet conversation,” she said. “My daughter wants the table now.”
It was a quiet ending to what had been a busy week at the Keller house and surrounding neighborhood. They got word Sunday night about the visit and Secret Service agents started showing up on Monday.
That’s when Charlene Batrack found out the White House wanted to use her home across the street to set up a tent for the media and a temporary press office in her garage. She initially didn’t answer when they knocked on her door.
“I looked out the window and saw all these men in black suits. I thought it was Mormons on their mission or maybe Jehovah Witnesses,” Batrack said. She said Paul Keller ran across the street and explained to her what was going on.
“The garage is like a command center,” she said as traveling reporters filed their stories Friday.
Batrack, who got to shake Obama’s hand, said she voted for him last election and intends to again. She said he’s not to blame for the sour economy.
“He kind of inherited a mess,” she said.