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Swing voters the presidential debate forgot: veterans

Wednesday's presidential debate included some love for Big Bird, but none for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, whose plight was ignored. But vets could prove an important voting bloc.

President Obama (r.) greets Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney during the first presidential debate at the University of Denver Wednesday in Denver.

David Goldman/AP

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There were no mentions of America’s veterans during Wednesday night’s presidential debate, a point that frustrates former US troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“It was seriously disappointing,” says Tom Tarantino, a former US Army captain and chief policy director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). “This was the debate that was supposed to focus on domestic issues and care for the men and women who had come home from Iraq and Afghanistan – it just didn’t seem like a priority.”

This perplexes veterans advocacy groups. “We have the ability to swing these elections – that’s the biggest secret nobody seems to have keyed in on,” Mr. Tarantino says.

Among IAVA’s members, 90 percent are registered to vote, roughly 40 percent of whom do not register or identify with any one party. The remaining 60 percent who do are equally split between the Republican and Democratic Parties.

“We’re pretty politically independent, pretty politically savvy – and we’re looking for candidates to address the needs that we’re facing,”  he says.

And while veterans represent only 6 percent of voters overall, US military bases – and thus the former fighters themselves – are concentrated in a number of swing states.


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