When Politics Hits Home

Colin and Guy Fowler are identical twins. They served in the Navy together. Both work in information technology. And when it comes to the presidential election, each is passionately backing his candidate -- different ones, that is.

Colin, who lives in Flemington, N.J., is a diehard supporter of President Bush. Guy lives in Angier, N.C., and believes John Kerry is the man for the job. They've spent the campaign season battling in heated arguments on the phone and via e-mail, with no wavering on either side.

"It amazes me that we're twins," Colin said. "I just can't believe we had an identical upbringing and everything."

His brother is equally bewildered. "He's so far to the right, and I don't know how that occurred," Guy said.

In a politically divided America, presidential politics is being fought at the dinner table as much as it is on the campaign trail. Passions run high on both sides, and the 2004 contest is pitting husband against wife, parent against child and sibling against sibling, with many wondering where their relationships will stand after the votes are cast Nov. 2.

"This is truly a civil war," said Salem Pierce of Erie, Pa., in an e-mail, adding, "I used to love our family debates, but the intensity of this election is causing hurt feelings between many family members."

Divided Families

Carol and Ken Block, a newly married couple from Macungie, Pa., both responded to an ABC News query about "battleground households" -- without the other one knowing. They were just married in April, and Carol, a Bush supporter who describes herself as a "devout Christian right-wing conservative," said she almost did not walk down the aisle with Ken, a Democrat and Kerry fan. In matters of politics, things have been rough.

"I told him last week that I was going to divorce him," she told ABC News in a subsequent telephone interview, only half joking.

Ken said their "diametrically opposed" views have led to some tense moments. "It's always been a sore point in this marriage," Ken added. "It's very heated in here. We cannot watch a debate together. We cannot watch a news story … it's a war. It gets loud, and it's not nice. I try not to do it a lot because we both get very upset."

The tension has affected Carol's 10-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, who is dreading the prospect of voting in a mock election at school. "She's scared to vote for either candidate," Carol said. "She's afraid we'll both kill her."

Living in the vital electoral state of Pennsylvania, the Blocks said it's hard to avoid the campaign, with signs posted throughout their community and everyone from friends to their pastor talking about it.

Similarly, Christopher Barr, a celebrity photographer and Democratic National Committee volunteer in Phoenix, said his family -- which includes a conservative matriarch, Republican Midwesterners and a nephew awaiting deployment to Iraq with the Army -- is divided politically. The war is a touchy issue, especially now that a family member is about to become directly involved.

Barr said he has staunchly different views on such issues as abortion and gay rights than his mother, and she has stopped him from managing her finances because of it.

"It got to the point a few weeks ago that she cut it all off," he said. "She doesn't want to do any more business with my wife or I because our values and our political perspective are just not the same."

They haven't spoken since, he said, and he's not sure where things will stand after the election. "There's a part of it that's kind of amusing and also a part that's just kind of tragic," he said. "I think that this is one of the insidious repercussions of the division that's been created in the past few years."

Coping, With Humor

Some people simply have dueling lawn signs and car bumper stickers to display their allegiances. In other homes, the visual support has escalated.

Debbie Fuehrer of Rochester, Minn., said in an e-mail that she placed a signed picture of Kerry and running mate John Edwards on the inside of her front door. Her son Jason put a Bush sticker over Kerry's face, "much to my husband Jim's approval."

"We had a running battle of me placing the picture in prominent places around the house and then my son would remove Kerry's picture and hide it from me," she said. She also made her husband put his Bush picture in his workshop "since I didn't want it in the house."

"No matter who wins," she said, "there will be no peace and harmony in our household until we watch a Vikings game together."

There is also hope for a peaceful outcome. Amy Schmidt of Williamsburg, Va., said via e-mail she and her husband "bicker, fight, laugh, discuss, e-mail each other opposing views just to get under each other's skin."

But in the end, she said, they always get along. "We are able to agree to disagree," she said, "but politics and the upcoming elections do bring out the claws -- and some humor."

Others are just anxious for Election Day to come and go, and for a time when politics can take a backseat to other issues.

"I can't wait for the 3rd," Ken Block said. "At least then it's over and you've got to live with it."