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Residents want presidential candidates to talk specifics

  • Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign event at the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum, Monday, Oct. 1, 2012, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

    Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign event at the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum, Monday, Oct. 1, 2012, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Goldman) Purchase photo reprints »

  • President Barack Obama smiles while being greeted by supporters upon arrival at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colo., Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

    President Barack Obama smiles while being greeted by supporters upon arrival at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colo., Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey) Purchase photo reprints »

  • President Barack Obama speaks at a campaign event at the Milwaukee Theater, Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

    President Barack Obama speaks at a campaign event at the Milwaukee Theater, Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney leaves his campaign headquarters in Boston, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

    Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney leaves his campaign headquarters in Boston, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney greets the crowd after a campaign rally at the Valley Forge Military Academy, Friday, Sept. 28, 2012, in Wayne, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

    Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney greets the crowd after a campaign rally at the Valley Forge Military Academy, Friday, Sept. 28, 2012, in Wayne, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Flags wave as Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks at Pueblo Weisbrod Aircraft Museum in Pueblo, Colo., Monday, Sept. 24, 2012. (AP Photo/Bryan Oller)

    Flags wave as Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks at Pueblo Weisbrod Aircraft Museum in Pueblo, Colo., Monday, Sept. 24, 2012. (AP Photo/Bryan Oller) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney holds a baby after making a campaign stop at American Legion Post 176, Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012, in Springfield, Va.  (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

    Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney holds a baby after making a campaign stop at American Legion Post 176, Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012, in Springfield, Va. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Easthampton resident Shirley Szepelak, 62, said she hopes the  candidates at the presidential debate will "stop bashing each other" and talk about the subjects people care about, such as the economy.

    Easthampton resident Shirley Szepelak, 62, said she hopes the candidates at the presidential debate will "stop bashing each other" and talk about the subjects people care about, such as the economy. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Florence resident David Mintz, 54, said he expects Obama to play it safe during the debate since he has a lead in the polls, while Romney tries to land a shining performance to boost his polling numbers.

    Florence resident David Mintz, 54, said he expects Obama to play it safe during the debate since he has a lead in the polls, while Romney tries to land a shining performance to boost his polling numbers. Purchase photo reprints »

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  • John Piepul, Shelburne Falls<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    John Piepul, Shelburne Falls
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Joanne Styspeck, Hadley<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Joanne Styspeck, Hadley
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  • Joseph R. White, Amherst<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Joseph R. White, Amherst
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  • Robert Trask, Hadley<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Robert Trask, Hadley
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  • Fred Perret, Montague<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Fred Perret, Montague
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  • Joshua Robinson, Granby<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Joshua Robinson, Granby
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  • Shaloma Kleiner, Hadley<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Shaloma Kleiner, Hadley
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  • Mark Melhorn, South Hadley<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Mark Melhorn, South Hadley
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  • President Barack Obama speaks at a campaign event at  G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium, Friday, Sept. 21, 2012, in Woodbridge, Va. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

    President Barack Obama speaks at a campaign event at G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium, Friday, Sept. 21, 2012, in Woodbridge, Va. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) Purchase photo reprints »

  • President Barack Obama speaks at a campaign event at  G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium, Friday, Sept. 21, 2012, in Woodbridge, Va. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

    President Barack Obama speaks at a campaign event at G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium, Friday, Sept. 21, 2012, in Woodbridge, Va. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign event at the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum, Monday, Oct. 1, 2012, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  • President Barack Obama smiles while being greeted by supporters upon arrival at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colo., Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
  • President Barack Obama speaks at a campaign event at the Milwaukee Theater, Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
  • Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney leaves his campaign headquarters in Boston, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
  • Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney greets the crowd after a campaign rally at the Valley Forge Military Academy, Friday, Sept. 28, 2012, in Wayne, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
  • Flags wave as Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks at Pueblo Weisbrod Aircraft Museum in Pueblo, Colo., Monday, Sept. 24, 2012. (AP Photo/Bryan Oller)
  • Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney holds a baby after making a campaign stop at American Legion Post 176, Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012, in Springfield, Va.  (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
  • Easthampton resident Shirley Szepelak, 62, said she hopes the  candidates at the presidential debate will "stop bashing each other" and talk about the subjects people care about, such as the economy.
  • Florence resident David Mintz, 54, said he expects Obama to play it safe during the debate since he has a lead in the polls, while Romney tries to land a shining performance to boost his polling numbers.
  • <br/><br/>
  • John Piepul, Shelburne Falls<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Joanne Styspeck, Hadley<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Joseph R. White, Amherst<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Robert Trask, Hadley<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Fred Perret, Montague<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Joshua Robinson, Granby<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Shaloma Kleiner, Hadley<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Mark Melhorn, South Hadley<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • President Barack Obama speaks at a campaign event at  G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium, Friday, Sept. 21, 2012, in Woodbridge, Va. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
  • President Barack Obama speaks at a campaign event at  G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium, Friday, Sept. 21, 2012, in Woodbridge, Va. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

With the first of three presidential debates set to air tonight, Valley residents say they are looking for solid answers to questions about the economy, health care and the deficit. They’re not eager to hear the candidates trading barbs, but most are expecting some of that, as well.

“I’d like to hear concrete plans on the economy, on foreign policy, not just them harping on each other,” said Easthampton resident Deborah Wojcicki, 49, while getting groceries at Big E’s Supermarket in the city.

Tonight’s much-anticipated presidential debate in Denver, which will focus on domestic and economic issues, airs at 9 p.m. on most major network and cable news channels. About half the time will be spent discussing the economy, with the remainder devoted to health care, governing and the role of government.

Democratic incumbent Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney have been preparing for the debate this week, while each respective party seems to be working overtime to tamp down expectations for its candidate.

Obama has a slight lead in the polls, so many local observers, including Florence resident David Mintz, 54, expect that Romney will be trying to prove himself while Obama will play it safe.

“It’s like a boxing match, and it’s the ninth of 12 rounds and Obama’s ahead in points,” Mintz said Tuesday at Thornes Marketplace in Northampton. “Romney needs to knock him out, but Obama just needs to stay away to win.”

Mintz said it would be a positive change in the campaign season to hear “specific, concrete ideas” during the debate. “But do I think we’ll hear them? No,” he said.

As other Pioneer Valley residents prepared to watch the debate, many said their biggest hope for the event is that it will differ from Monday’s match-up between Sen. Scott Brown and Democratic challenger for the U.S. Senate, Elizabeth Warren, a heated back-and-forth that included personal jabs.

Shirley Szepelak, 62, of Easthampton said Tuesday at Big E’s Supermarket that she hopes Obama and Romney can focus on presenting their ideas more than the candidates for the Senate did.

“I think they need to stop bashing each other. They have to get to the subjects people want to hear about,” Szepelak said. For her, she said, that includes the economy and the war in Afghanistan. “They keep bashing each other like that, and then people don’t tune in because they don’t want to hear it.”

Easthampton resident Muriel Codwise, 64, said she hopes they simply answer the questions put before them. “It’d be nice to know what they actually stood for,” she said. “I think they just need to put their faces out there with what they stand for and stop throwing mud.”

Traci Olsen, 39, of Northampton said that she is eager to learn more about the candidates. “I feel like there have been a lot of half-truths and I think they both need to clarify their positions so people can choose,” she said. Like others interviewed, she said, she’s heard enough “zingers” this campaign season. “I’m hoping for a more substantial debate.”

Dan Gousy, 38, of Northampton said the economy and health care were on the top of his list of preferred topics. “I’m hoping to hear a little about what both candidates plan to do with health care reform, in terms of what Obama’s done so far and what Mitt Romney plans to do, including possibly eliminating individual mandates,” Gousy said. “I’d also be interested to hear about unemployment, but I don’t know how much either candidate is prepared to do to stimulate growth.”

In Easthampton, resident Patrick O’Brien, 53, said he thinks both candidates need to abandon the rhetoric tonight to get voters’ attention. “They need to be honest,” O’Brien said. “They need to talk about the economy, the national debt, immigration, and the possibility of eliminating government agencies.”

While shopping on Route 9 in Hadley, Joanne Styspeck, 75, of 3 West St., said she would like to hear more discussion about Afghanistan.

She said Obama is “on his way to getting us out of the hole that was left to his administration.”

Robert W. Trask, 38, who manages Arizona Pizza at Hampshire Mall in Hadley, said job creation, the economy and policies that will help small businesses prosper are the topics on his mind.

“It’s all connected,” he said. “If the economy gets better, then more people come to the restaurant and I can hire more employees.”

Shaloma Kleiner, 25, of 10 Highland St., Hadley, said she is interested in hearing the candidates discuss health care, because she is worried about the cost and wants to see prices stabilize.

“A lot of jobs don’t offer health insurance, so you have to pay out of pocket,” she said.

Joseph R. White, 20, a junior studying kinesiology at UMass, said his main concerns are the state of the economy and how Obama’s health care reform will play out.

“I want to go into the health care industry,” he said. “The economy links up with that.” White said he and his friends are concerned about their ability to find jobs when they enter the work force.

Mark Melhorn, 54, of 31 Garden St., South Hadley. Melhorn, who drives about 45 miles a day, said President Obama has not made sufficient progress on energy policy.

“Energy policy drives the country,” Melhorn said. “People are spending more on gasoline. That means they’re not spending it on other things.”

“The economy is certainly a concern,” said Fred W. Perret, 55, of 89 Sunderland Road, Montague.

John M. Piepul, 63, of Shelburne Falls said he thinks the electorate “is sick and tired of political posturing” and that the news media are not adequately challenging the candidates on specifics.

“The media is giving both of them a pass,” he said. “Both candidates aren’t addressing the issues.”

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com. Etta Walsh can be reached at ewalsh@gazettenet.com.

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