Politics and beer on the commuter train home

Rail Politics 2016: Who are these riders voting for?
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Story highlights

  • As the train pulls out, beer cans are popped and debates erupt
  • As with the rest of the country, Hillary Clinton is a divisive figure among these friends

Long Island, New York (CNN)The political analysis on the 5:51 p.m. train from New York's Penn Station to Stewart Manor has all of energy of cable TV, but it comes with a side of beer brought on-board for the ride home.

It's appointment commuting -- and arguing -- for these friends, who joke that they have "New York values," alluding to an insult lobbed at Donald Trump by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz at a recent debate. Those values don't make them supporters of the GOP front-runner.
    "He is the first reality TV Candidate" says Joe Macchiarola a Republican who works as a claims examiner and is deciding between Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. "If America elects this guy, they get what they deserve. This is not the answer."
    "The guy is not a good businessman. He is a good ego maniac," says Denise Stott, an Independent voting for Hillary Clinton, and who does not like Trump.
    These are the conversations -- far from the political rallies and the TV -- that will help decide this election. They're just like the debates happening nationwide at the dinner table and on the golf course, at the water cooler, the kid's soccer game and Facebook. And they're energized by talking about Trump.
    For more than a decade the 45-minute Long Island Railroad train ride has been a place to talk politics for this feisty group. Most are Republicans of varying degrees, but with one Democrat and one Independent, the discussion is always interesting and sometimes heated.
    As the train pulls out, beer cans are popped and debates erupt. It's witty and tough but civil.
    As with the rest of the country, Hillary Clinton is a divisive figure among these friends.
    "I think Hillary is the most qualified whether you like her or not," says Stott, who works in human resources and hires potential job candidates, "She has the resume for it."
    "Just because you had a job before doesn't mean you are good at it," Macchiarola quickly responds.
    "She's going to run to the left and move to the center, just like her husband did," adds Kevin Sullivan, a director at an insurance company who is a moderate Republican and thinks Hillary is going to win the election.
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    Other commuters can't help but listen in; it's clear this group feels the nominations are almost set.
    "At the end of the day it's going to come down to Clinton and Trump," declares Steve Cowie, a senior vice president at a bond company, who is the also the lone Democrat of the group and a longtime supporter of Hillary Clinton.
    With very little support for fellow New Yorker Trump, would any of the Republicans in the group make the jump to Hillary's camp? No way.
    "If it's 'Trump vs. Clinton,' I'm not voting," says Macchiarola, who is a more conservative Republican.
    "You will not vote?" fires back Democrat Cowie, who was quite surprised by his friend. "You will not exercise your American right to vote?" he asks.
    "I will exercise my right to NOT vote," says Macchiarola.
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    Tom McGinley, a financial advisor, is the lone member of the group who is considering voting for Trump. He reminds everyone about Clinton's email server.
    "Doesn't anyone care about the server?" asks McGinley.
    "Nobody cares about it," Kevin Sullivan shoots back.
    But he is cut off...
    "I care about it," says Jim Marron, who is supporting John Kasich and works in advertising sales.
    Sullivan sticks to his guns and says to Marron, "Yeah, you and about six other people!"
    "The problem is America is focused on Donald Trump insulting people," Macchiarola interjects, who thinks Trump is a bully.
    Some in the group see a changing party despite Donald Trump's front-runner status.
    "One of the most under-reported parts of the race is how diverse the Republican candidates are," says Tom Stenson, a sales vice president and Republican who is supporting Marco Rubio.
    McGinley thinks that millennial voters are attracted to Trump for different reasons.
    "These folks grew up with reality TV." McGinley says, adding, "They see Trump on television; they can relate with him in some way, even though he is flying in on a helicopter."
    Kevin Sullivan wonders what a Trump White House might look like.
    "He will want to put a big T in the front lawn of the White House" Sullivan jokes. The group responds with another round of laughter as their commute ends and the group follows another ritual, a stop for a beer at McKinley's garage, otherwise known as "the man-cave."