You don’t have to look further than Mayberry to find a bellwether city this election year.
That’s right. The fictional TV home where Sheriff Andy Taylor and Deputy Barney Fife could be found at Floyd’s Barbershop, providing Earnest T. Bass wasn’t in town chuckin’ rocks through windows.
In real life, the town is known as Mount Airy, a North Carolina community of 10,000 sitting on the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Once a thriving region with textile mills and tobacco as king, it has reinvented itself as a tourism magnet. The Andy Griffith show is a big part of that with an annual festival in the fall that draws 10,000 to 20,000 folks. Local wineries are also a lure as well as Miss Angel’s Heavenly Pie, which serves a moonshine-flavored apple pie, of all things.
When you put all of that in a bottle and shake it up, what comes out is a lot of people working two to three jobs to make as much money as they used to when working one.
The underemployment has left local governments and schools with a depleted tax base.
“Jobs, jobs and jobs,” is what John Peters describes as the big election issues this year. Peters is the editor of the local newspaper.
He says heading into their conventions, neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton is inspiring Mayberry.
“People’s views are all over the map on Trump. Some think it’s great that he says what he says off the cuff, but when they drill down to what he’s saying, there’s some concern,” Peters said. “With Hillary, there are people who absolutely detest her.”
There are nearly as many registered Democrats as Republicans in Surry County, but Angie Daoud looks for it to favor Trump. She’s a Mount Airy native and has lived most of her life there. She and her husband, A.J., are in Cleveland this week for the Republican Convention where they both are alternate delegates.
“There are a lot of ‘Dixie-crats,’” she said, noting these folks are Democrats only because their families are longtime Democrats. “In reality they are very conservative and that’s how they vote.’’
The bigger question: How would the cast of the Andy Griffith Show vote?
A straw poll of the show’s fans from North Carolina and Ohio saw it this way:
For Trump: Andy, Barney, Floyd, Aunt Bea, Thelma Lou, Emmett and the Darlings. “Barney would especially be excited,” said Peters.
For Clinton: Howard Sprague, who was called “a big government guy” by Lima’s Matt Huffman.
Swing voters: Helen Crump, Golmer and Goober.
Not registered: Earnest T. Bass
“Just remember,” A.J. Daoud said, “As Mayberry goes, so goes America.”
PARTING SHOT: Keep your words sweet because you may end up eating them.
Jim Krumel is the editor of The Lima News. Contact him at 567-242-0391 or at The Lima News, 3515 Elida Road, Lima, OH 45807.