What voters are saying matters to them in the lead-up to Election Day

ABC's Rachel Scott, Allie Pecorin and Sarah Kolinovsky report from swing states.

November 2, 2022, 1:25 PM

From Caliente, Nevada, to Wadley, Georgia, and all across Ohio and Pennsylvania -- their voices will be pivotal in one of the most consequential midterm election in decades.

Here's a view from the road through the eyes of some of voters we've met on the campaign trail.

Yes, abortion rights is actually a defining issue -- and some Republican voters are conflicted

Last month, about 150 miles outside of Las Vegas, in the small town of Caliente, Nevada, we met Mary Love, an undecided voter.

She's the owner of one of the few restaurants in town. And if you judged her by the issue most important to her -- you might think she's a Democrat. But you'd be wrong.

"Abortion rights is the most important issue to me," Love told me.

She's a conservative and she's torn.

"I'm undecided because of the issue of abortion rights … It's not that I'm for abortion, I'm for the choice of abortion," she said.

She added: "It's tough because we are Republicans but on that issue -- that's worrisome to me, especially after we fought so hard to get Roe v. Wade."

We put it more simply: if Roe v. Wade was not overturned would you be voting for a Republican? Yes, she told us. But now? She's undecided.

PHOTO: Mary Love chats with ABC News at her restaurant, Side Track, in Caliente, Nev., Oct. 24, 2022.
Mary Love chats with ABC News at her restaurant, Side Track, in Caliente, Nev., Oct. 24, 2022.
Rachel Scott/ABC News

Abortion has become a flash point in Nevada's Senate race where the incumbent Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto has zeroed on the issue blasting her opponent, former state attorney general Adam Laxalt for his opposition of abortion rights.

Nearly 1,300 miles away, we met a couple in the suburbs of Roeland Park, Kansas, part of critical Johnson County, once a stronghold for Republican moderates that has now leaned Democratic.

Earlier this past summer, the conservative state of Kansas voted to protect access to abortion. Breanna and Kyle O'Brien, two devout Catholics, made a decision to terminate their first pregnancy in June after discovering their child was diagnosed with two rare and severe genetic conditions.

The couple said "never in a million years" would they have ever considered an abortion as Catholics but the "quality of life for their child changed everything."

"It would not be a normal life and the quality of life would be so low that I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy, Kyle said in August.

"I would say first and foremost, it's not just about Kansas women. This is going to be an example that set throughout the whole U.S.," Breanna said.

We found this issue was deeply personal to many voters. Democratic voter Toni Streaker had tears in her eyes as she left a polling location in Cobb County, Georgia. "What they're trying to do is strip away our rights. So I don't want my granddaughter to live in a world where she doesn't have the same rights that I've had," she said.

Conservative voters stick with Herschel Walker but some don't really want to talk about why

Outside a polling location in Cobb County, we found several Republicans who voted for GOP Senate candidate Herschel Walker but were reluctant to talk about why.

"I look at both of them as very flawed candidates. But the values that Walker has was why I voted for him," Joe Dunn, an independent voter who leans conservative. For Dunn, the most important issues are the economy and the border.

We asked how those allegations that Walker paid for a woman's abortion affected his vote.

"They did turn me off," Dunn said. He later added, "Everybody has a history. And it's really not about what your history is. It's really about what you stand for. That makes more of a difference to me."

PHOTO: Herschel Walker voters gather outside his campaign bus at a stop in Wadley, Ga., Oct. 6, 2022.
Herschel Walker voters gather outside his campaign bus at a stop in Wadley, Ga., Oct. 6, 2022.
Rachel Scott/ABC News

Another independent leaning conservative, Alan Adams, who retired from a job in manufacturing put it this way: "I had to go with Herschel Walker, which was basically just a vote against Warnock. You know, if I had to choose the lesser of two, so that's what I did."

He even admitted that Walker "doesn't seem very smart." He supported him anyway. "Like I said, I had to weigh it out."

All eyes on Pennsylvania where the focus is on Fetterman's health

One day after a debate showdown between Democrat John Fetterman and Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz in Harrisburg, we traveled three hours to Pittsburgh.

It's where, last month, we found Democratic voter Tom Lawlor, an attorney who was undecided.

"I'm not sure if Mr. Fetterman's people should have him in this race. I feel bad for him," he said. Lawlor added, if my decision had to be made today. I think I would lean for Dr. Oz."

After the debate, Lawlor said he had more questions about Fetterman's health and implied he was not being transparent,

"If there are issues and quite frankly, his not wanting to release[his medical records] it gives me greater cause of concern if he has the health and capacity to be a U.S. senator, I think the best way to quell those concerns, at least with me, is release and be willing to release them and then that issue is off the table. Then it can be decided more on policy lines," he said.

Others like Richard Ferro, a retiree from Pittsburgh, who said he's supporting Fetterman.

"Okay, he has a little bit of trouble talking. His mind is okay. I mean, if he, if it affected his mind in some way- I could say okay, but he's still a smart guy. Has nothing to do with his speech," he said.

Signs 2024 support for Trump fading among some independents and moderates in key battlegrounds

It didn't matter where we traveled -- Ohio to Pennsylvania -- Georgia to Nevada -- there was one clear theme from most independents and moderates we spoke to: They don't want Trump to run again.

Take Mary Love for an example -- that Republican restaurant owner we met in Caliente, Nevada, last month. She supported Trump in 2016 and 2020. What about 2024? "I don't know if he can be effective, because we spend more time running him into the ground … I'm not sure if he can be effective as would want him to be."

She's hoping Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis gets in the race.

We traveled 650 miles across Ohio. In Grove City, last April, we met Republican Don Reed who told us over coffee eggs.

"I'm not a Trump fan," he told us. "I'm a Republican, not a Trump fan." He described the party as being at a crossroads.

And what about those two independents we met in Georgia?

Well, they voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020 -- but wouldn't support him again.

Here's what Joe Dunn said: "I think Trump has done a lot of harm more than good for the Republican Party." He added, "I hope he doesn't run again … I would like to see somebody a little bit more polished and less, I guess a little less somebody that holds grudges and stuff like that."

Alan Adams had fewer words when asked if he wants to see Trump run in 2024.

"Absolutely not. He's he's. He's a maniac," Adams who supported Trump in 2016 and 2020 said.

It might be all about the economy, but crime and the border are up there, too

Economy is top of mind -- there's no way around it.

But crime and immigration were two issues we kept hearing from voters in every battleground state -- but especially in Ohio.

On our 650-mile journey, every Republican voter we interviewed mentioned immigration as an issue they care most about.

"If I had to choose between immigration and inflation, I would swallow hard and accept inflation. This issue at the border has got to be handled and stopped," Linda O'Brien said.

Still, all these voters were clear if Trump became the Republican nominee again -- they would consider supporting him over a Democrat.