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As New Political Season Dawns, A Yearning for New Approach

January 24, 1996

URBANDALE, Iowa (AP) _ Everyday Americans found little to cheer in the president’s annual report on the nation’s condition or the Republican counterpoint.

``Get done with your little fight and get on with it,″ Judy Teig muttered and sewed as the political drama unfolded on her television set.

``They’re posturing,″ said husband, Richard, an insurance executive, who wants the GOP-driven Congress and President Clinton to solve their budget grudge. ``I don’t hold out much hope that they’ll actually do it _ find common ground,″ he said.

Like the Teigs, who live in this northwest Des Moines suburb, many voters say they want the budget mess solved, and _ in stark contrast to the poisoned and partisan atmosphere in Washington _ they’d like to see a lot more giving and taking, from all involved.

``There aren’t a lot of Americans who are strictly conservative or strictly liberal,″ said Mike Rowray, a Cedar Rapids hospital business manager. ``People are sick of all this political jargon going on between the conservatives and the liberals.″

``The era of big government is over,″ Clinton said in his State of the Union speech, adding: ``But we cannot go back to the time when our citizens were left to fend for themselves.″

Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, in his response, labeled the president as ``the chief obstacle to a balanced budget.″ Dole, the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination called Clinton ``the rearguard of the welfare state.″

In Iowa and New Hampshire where the presidential nominating process kicks off next month, voters have seen the early stages of the campaign take shape. A cross-section of voters interviewed in those states urged budget compromise, and warned that problems facing the nation are larger than the partisan battles that are raging in Washington.

Liz Purdy, a senior at the University of New Hampshire, saw the results of confusing and often contradictory elections at work. Both sides, she argued, are doing what voters want.

``The Republican Congress and the president have two different mandates, if you will,″ she said.

The budget debate wins few converts, just a call for answers _ and overwhelmingly it’s the topic most voters felt needs to be addressed.

``The people we’ve elected seem to be more hard-nosed and less apt to compromise,″ said Mrs. Teig, a part-time teacher.

``This was clearly political, sounding the themes of the party like on the campaign trail,″ her husband said of Tuesday night’s speeches.

Perhaps reflecting the deluge of attention to the budget gridlock, voters interviewed overwhelmingly focused on that question. They wonder why a solution eludes the nation’s political leaders

``I can’t imagine why they can’t solve the problem,″ said Dan Rubner, a tool and die foreman from Dyersville. ``It seems like no matter what comes up, they can never reach a decision. There’s always someone who can’t agree.″ declared it was a time to stand for principle, but many declared it was a time to end the mess.

``It’s like we’re all going to have to compromise, and it’s not going to be exactly the way I would like or exactly the way you would like,″ said Michael Carthey, a state worker from Davenport.

In New Hampshire, Cathy Patterson, a divorced mother of three watched part of the speeches as she readied her children for bed, and disgust was on her mind.

``They are mudslinging at each other so much you don’t know what to believe,″ she said.

Ominously for Republicans, Clinton is likely to get her vote ``because I guess when you can’t trust any of them it is better to stick with someone we already know.″

But in Henniker, N.H., Stuart Bernstein also agrees with charges the Republicans are being mean-spirited in budget cuts, but with an important caveat.

``I do agree with the balanced budget and I do think the Republicans are more committed to it than Clinton is,″ he said.

Not many saw the running budget fight as a serious debate over the nation’s future, or even a real attempt to find a solution.

``It seems to me to very much political positioning more than a real attempt to strike a compromise,″ said Joe Weist, of West Des Moines.