The debates between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are under way and are crucial in the battle to be president. Everyone seems to agree on that. What they don't agree on is who to vote for and whether the debates will change their minds.

In 10 random interviews done before the first debate, East Contra Costa County voters talked about the importance of the debates in helping to pick the next president. Most of them already have decided; the others said they are still up for grabs, hoping to learn more from the faceoffs between the two.

"I'm on the fence and expect to get the information I need," said Brentwood's Heidi Holm. "The debates are terribly important. They provide the kind of quiet needed for decision making."

Mark Yancey of Brentwood said that debates generally don't affect his thinking on who to vote for. This time is different. "My vote still is undecided. I could be swayed. Obama is a polished speaker and Romney has good business background."

Teresa Bustos of Brentwood isn't even watching the debates. "I'll follow it in the aftermath by reading the news reports and seeing the highlights," she said. "The debates are good for most of the undecideds."

Antioch's John Sylvester is another who isn't watching. "Debates always are interesting but usually filled with a lot of BS. I pretty well know who I'll vote for. I don't expect to change. But while It's not likely it could happen," he said.


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Sandy Coach of Antioch said, "Even though I pretty well know who I'll vote for. I don't think I'll change my mind, but it's possible. Debates always are interesting and shed more light on the campaign."

"I know who I'll vote for and won't change my mind," said Jessica Terry of Oakley. "The debates will help Romney. He'll come out looking better," she said. "We'll see where the candidates stand. It's the great opportunity for airing issues."

Steve Betschart of Oakley is an Obama supporter. "The debates won't change my choice or that of anyone else who's decided," he said. "Both candidates simply are fishing to get votes. Yet, it's helpful to those on the fence."

Kelly Terry of Oakley doesn't think much of the debates. "We hear what they say but we don't know what the candidate actually can or will do. It ends up being a personality pitch for votes," he said. "I'm an independent going with Obama for a second term."

"Romney is plastic and Obama is articulate," countered Kelly Pratt of Brentwood. "The rest of my family feels the same," he said. "We're watching the debates because they're fun to watch and are informative."

Amy Hartman of Brentwood won't watch. "There's competition over who's in charge of our TV. We've got four kids, and my husband likes watching four different sports. Hopefully, I'll get the chance to see at least some of the debating."

Contact Ed Arnow at BrentwoodBuzz@aol.com.