DENVER — Greg Adams, the 37-year-old mayor of New Concord, Ohio, dutifully watched the presidential debates this fall - but with the remote control in his hand.
A conservative Republican, he found himself switching channels, frustrated that Bob Dole could not seem to get his message out, light any fires or get the "character" issues to stick to President Clinton.
He was also discouraged that the face-offs seemed mired in petty details and jibes rather than lofty, inspiring words and visions.
Like many others in this small all-American village - one of the towns and cities along U.S. 40 that Sun reporters visited last summer to talk with voters about their concerns - Adams has been turned off by, and disappointed with, the presidential campaign.
In follow-up conversations with dozens of those previously interviewed - from Denver to Atlantic City, N.J. - many voters say that the candidates failed to engage them, uplift them or address in any substantive way the issues that were important to them, such as jobs, welfare reform or quality of life.
These citizens express a striking degree of indifference to the race, with many independents, swing voters and undecided voters saying the GOP has failed to give them an appealing or superior alternative to Bill Clinton or a reason to shake up the status quo. Few will be going to the polls next week enthusiastically - or with the passion or even anger that sent them there in 1992 and 1994, when they cried out for change. Some, in fact, said they were too busy working on an addition to their home to pay attention.
Mostly, they will pull a lever with resignation, if they vote at all.
"This is the one presidential campaign that I've probably followed the least," says Doug Winner, 44, a Republican who is the middle school principal in New Concord, citing his lack of affection for the candidates.
"I lost interest."
He will vote for Dole, he says, but strictly out of party loyalty. "I have to think the Republican Party could have found a better candidate," he says.
"Dole comes off as somewhat fragile. His answers are clipped and short. He has this severe overtone. It's a pretty depressing picture."
In this tidy, Republican-leaning town - where bags of leaves now line the streets, a sign that the campaign season is drawing to a close - the residents said last summer that values and the country's moral fabric were important to them.
And that's why some, such as Doug Blaikie, a Republican, will be voting for Dole, even though Blaikie calls him "one of the worst public speakers I've ever heard" and does not believe he will win.
The Presbyterian minister and father of two young boys explains his intended vote: "I don't think this is an ethical administration. I don't think Bill Clinton is someone my children should look up to - or could look up to.
"I thought people would care about that. Maybe it really is true if people aren't hurting economically, they don't care about ethics. Times aren't as bad as they were four years ago. People just aren't angry."
That seems to be the case even here, where the questions about Clinton's ethics and character give voters pause, but not necessarily enough to overcome their current sense of economic comfort.
"We're all very self-centered," says Maggie Thomas, an independent voter who has decided to vote for Clinton, even though she has reservations about him.
In an explanation that sounds as if it could have been scripted by the Clinton campaign - and could be one of the keys to the president's lead in the polls - she says, "We're not in a war. The economy is good. Interest rates are down. The Dow hit an all-time high. What's not to like?"
Echoing her sentiments is Bruce Crutchfield, 49, a Republican who owns a real estate and insurance business and is leaning toward Clinton because the economy is doing well.
"I don't know if he's responsible or not, but it seems like things are going better than they were in the past," said Crutchfield, who voted for George Bush four years ago.
Neither he nor Thomas is sold on Dole's across-the-board 15 percent tax cut proposal.
"It won't work," says Thomas, who is concerned about the national debt that her children will inherit.
Jack Bogart, a Republican who owns a bed and breakfast, says, "I'd rather see drastic welfare reform rather than a tax cut. That's what's draining our country."
But Bogart, like others in this morally minded community that is the hometown of Democratic Sen. John Glenn, is voting for Dole because of what he calls the "integrity" issue.
The 48-year-old businessman said he thought Dole should have hit the trust and integrity issues harder in his debates. But, reflecting the quandary that Dole found himself in regarding such character attacks, he adds, "I hate for a candidate to be negative."
In fact, Winner, the school principal, said he didn't tune in to the final debate because of reports that Dole was planning to go on the offensive.
"I just didn't want to listen to that," he said.