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January 29, 2012

Florida Primary Voters Focused on Economy

by Jim Malone


Republican voters in Florida head to the polls Tuesday in a presidential primary election that could prove pivotal in the battle for the Republican presidential nomination.  Voters will choose among four candidates on the ballot in Florida, but as VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone found out in Orlando, they are most concerned with the economy this election year.

If you are looking for the good life in central Florida, you could do a lot worse than Winter Park near Orlando.  The calendar may say January, but the sunshine draws locals outside for a glass of wine and, in some cases, the taste of a good cigar.

Not far away, Orlando’s skyscrapers beckon as another workday begins with the ever-present presidential campaign as a backdrop.  It is a different scene south of the city where abandoned stores and fenced-off lots tell a tale of broken dreams and a local economy still struggling to rebound.  

The candidates, including Mitt Romney, talk a lot about the economy in their speeches.  Romney blames the president. “He is so detached from reality that he does not know what it’s like here in Florida," he said.

Romney supporter Lucia Mezzancello says there is only one issue for her. “Economy and jobs, one in the same.  He is a job creator.  His success can filter down," she said.

At the same rally, Bob Bowman worries about Florida’s depressed housing market. “I own three houses here in Florida.  All of them are down [in value].  Luckily I do not have a mortgage on any of them, but if I were to try to sell one right now, I would be crying," he said.

Jobs and housing are also a focus for Romney’s main rival, Newt Gingrich.

The economy is clearly on the minds of Florida’s early voters including Van Tran, whose spa business recently closed. “I would like to see the economy turn around and come back the way we were before.  I would love to see that and everyone is struggling, fighting for that," he said.

For Kathy McArthur, the issue is jobs. “If we want a stronger America then we can not send jobs overseas.  We have to have them here," she said.

After the candidates move on, Florida will once again be left to face an uncertain future where the promise of the good life can often run headlong into a sobering economic reality.