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IL: Does Mother Know Best?

By Elizabeth Williamson
Your reporter was assigned to cover Illinois either at random or because she is a former Chicago suburbanite, deeply plugged into those who make up the bulk of the state's electorate. As wealthier Chicago suburbanites shift from blue to red, this massive bloc of reliable voters is a constant source of worry to Chicago's Democratic machine.

They are enigmatic folks, these people -- people such as, well, my mother.

We catch Joan Dietmann back in the condo after she has cast her vote at the Riviera Country Club, one of several civic-minded golf courses to turn their clubhouses into polling places in southwest suburban Orland Park. Orland used to be as blue as the hair on some of Mom's pals. But these days, it's leaning just a leetle bit Republican. Not so Joan, who doesn't use the azure rinse but whose political soul is dyed Dem. I think she's 77, but if you think I'm going to call her back to check, you're nuts.

Joan Dietmann is so opinionated and feisty that she once chased a group of kids who threw snowballs at her car for blocks. But today, she was, until the moment she pulled the lever, an undecided -- a novel experience for her. (Trust me.)

"I didn't know, I kept going back and forth [between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama] until I actually got there," she said. "Because I think they're both good. I just wish whoever wins would use the other one as a running mate, but I don't think that she would be satisfied with that."

Dietmann considers it rude to ask how someone voted. But this was business.

"Obama," she said. Walking between the parking lot and the voting booth at 2:30 p.m. today, she finally decided. "He's more electable," she said. "I think she's got a little too much baggage, and I think that would hurt her in the general election."

Her 80-year-old, um, boyfriend voted for Obama, too, "but simply because he doesn't like Hillary," she said.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, my mother said she felt like she'd lived too long. Now she sounds like a youth voter: "This is a great election, isn't it? I just think it's so interesting. I'm, like, a junkie. I've seen every debate, I'm watching it on TV all the time. It's just so different, a woman and a black man. All my friends are saying that."

A lot of them will vote for Hillary Clinton: "I think part of it is because she's a woman. He's definitely an idealist, which is nice, but will that work in the climate today?"

Polls predict a lopsided Obama win in Illinois. Not Mom.

"I think it's going to be real close here," she said. "I do."

By Washington Post editors  |  February 5, 2008; 7:17 PM ET
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