Patty Tropea, 47, is the manager of a waterfront pavilion used for weddings and other events in this coastal town. She's a Republican who hasn't made up her mind about the presidential race. But she is certain about one thing: her anger about the federal government's management of the economy.
"I've paid my bills. I didn't go out for lavish dinners or take expensive vacations, and now I have to pay for what other people have done?'' demanded Tropea. "I would like to see one of the candidates prove to the American people that they can stabilize the economy."
Stay-at-home mom Nichole Garcia and her three-year-old were late for storytime but stopped for a few minutes to talk about the presidential election. She and her husband are Army veterans who strongly believe in the war in Iraq.
"I believe if we just pulled out our troops, it would cause problems.'' Garcia said. "All the troops, all the deaths, would be in vain."
Garcia is also concerned about "pork-barrel spending" and said Republican John McCain will get it under control.
"All those crazy things they are using our tax money for,'' she said. "I believe he and Gov. Palin will shake things up."
ORLANDO -- Heading east across Interstate-4 in search of what makes this region tick, Naked Politics followed the footsteps laid yesterday by former President Bill Clinton. He campaigned here, at the University of Central Florida, on behalf of Democrat Barack Obama.
Lauren Korchek, 18, pictured below on the right, had to forego the Clinton rally for biology class. But she's already made up her mind to vote for Obama.
"I feel more confident that he would make a change,'' she said. "He puts a lot more faith in younger generations."
Her friend Casey Link, also 18, is still on the fence and may not even vote.
"My thoughts are really mixed up on the election,'' she said. "I want to vote but....I don't feel a strong pull."
ORLANDO -- The stereotype of the latte-swilling Starbucks crowd is that they're all a bunch of over-educated, white guilt-riddden liberals. Not so. Naked Politics met about as many supporters of Republican John McCain on this downtown street corner as fans of Democrat Barack Obama, during another stop along the politically coveted Interstate-4 corridor.
"McCain is more conservative and more fiscally responsible,'' said Gino Butto, who works at the Orange County Clerk of Courts. "With Obama, I feel like I've seen so many different sides of him and I don't know who he is...I'm a moderate Republican, and he's too liberal and inconsistent."
Rob Frese, a 46-year-old CFO, said he doesn't buy the Democratic line of attack that voting for McCain is voting for another eight years of President Bush.
"I'm voting for this year's candidate, not last year's candidate,'' he said. "McCain has the ability to make his own mind up."
KISSIMMEE -- Naked Politics' road trip along Interstate-4 made a detour here, to one of the fastest growing Hispanic communities in the country, where a group of about two dozen men are playing soccer. For a few hours, they can forget about the mortgage being past due or the cost of gas.
They lost their condominium nearly two years ago when the interest rate on the mortgage skyrocketed. Busquets works for AAA and picks up stranded drivers who often need to vent about their own money problems. He's voting for Democrat Barack Obama.
"He's something new. He's a change,'' Busquets said. "We can't afford another Republican like John McCain."
LAKELAND -- More than one out of five residents of this town between Tampa and Orlando are black. So it's not hard to find voters excited about Democrat Barack Obama, the first African-American presidential nominee.
"I'm so proud of him, even if he doesn't get to be the president,'' said Pat Moore, 52, who was born and raised here. "Times have certainly changed."
Like just about everybody, Moore's top concern is the economy. She was on her lunch break from work at Lakeland Regional Medical Center and had treated herself to a Filet-O-Fish combo from McDonald's. She usually brings lunch.
"It is indeed a treat,'' said Moore, adding that she struggles to pay her property taxes and mortgage payment. "Tomorrow is payday so I can splurge."
But the strawberry shakes are delicious, and many shoppers said the low prices for fresh fruit and vegetables can't be beat.
Democrat Barack Obama campaigned here. So did President Bush, and his brother, former Gov. Jeb Bush.
"Everyone is concerned about the I-4 corridor,'' said owner Jim Meeks, who passed on a copy of the local paper's story on Obama's visit. "They've all been here. It's kind of like they come to get a feel for the people."
This small town is on the eastern edge of Hillsborough County, which has been picking presidents for years. Why? Because the county is like a microcosm of Florida: rural here, urban back in Tampa, retirement communities, and of course, suburban sprawl.
TAMPA -- It's the Versailles of Tampa Bay, a seen-and-be-seen kind of place frequented by candidates and locals looking for a fix of strong Cuban coffee. Inside the West Tampa Sandwich Shop, 51-year-old Michael Diaz talked about the financial squeeze.
Diaz is a carpenter who used to run a fishing guide business but no longer can afford the fuel for his boat. He's got four kids. He's has been caring for his ailing mother, who died yesterday. "It's an ordeal,'' he said. "Life is not easy."
Diaz is a registered Democrat but he's leaning toward Republican John McCain because of his government experience.
"We have serious problems and we need a serious person to take care of them,'' he said. "I'm looking for someone who is going to give us great leadership."
YBOR CITY -- This historic neighborhood northeast of Tampa first populated by Cuban cigar-makers attracts a young, nightlife-seeking crowd. Many are independent voters leery of the major political parties.
"I don't like the strings attached to party affiliation,'' said John Farmer, 25, who was drinking a beer and talking politics Tuesday night.
Nearly 40 percent of the state's independent voters live in the 12 counties hugging the I-4 corridor running from here to Daytona Beach.