"I really do think things are going in the right direction," he says.
They are, too, about 70 miles away in Orlando for Leigh Ann Horton and her husband, Vince, owners of AIT Life Safety, a commercial fire alarms, sprinkler and safety systems company they purchased nearly three years ago.
"Last year, I was still saying, 'Are we going to survive?'" Leigh Ann Horton recalls. "'Should we have even bought this thing?'"
They trimmed their payroll, assembled a new management team and in January, she says, the economy edged up slightly and their efforts began to pay off. Business has increased 20 percent in the last year and they've added workers and are so busy they've passed up placing bids on some projects.
"I don't come into work and wonder if I'm going to meet payroll next week," she says. "There's a much different feeling. Just a little bit more at peace."
Eve and Michael Dobbins long for that day.
In April, they opened Cupcake Cache (Michael Dobbins was on an Army culinary team), selling 37 varieties in a tidy shop in the shadow of Busch Gardens. Money is so tight for the couple — they wear matching Mrs. Boss and Mr. Boss knit shirts — that he sold his golf clubs.
"We create a delicacy — if they've got $3 in their wallet, they might not be thinking cupcakes, they might be thinking a gallon of gas," he acknowledges.
Eve Dobbins, who just returned from a year's teaching gig in Abu Dhabi (both husband and wife have master's degrees), has teacher friends around the country and "all of us are struggling in our own ways," she says. "That says a lot."
She recently took a college teaching job to supplement their income from the shop, but both Dobbinses are convinced that with leases so cheap, they made the right move.
"I'm glad we did it," Michael Dobbins says. "I don't think there will be a better time than now."
With 2½ months before the election, Michael Dobbins was a rare breed — an undecided voter — until last week, when Romney announced his running mate.
The selection of Paul Ryan put Dobbins in the GOP corner. He says he likes Ryan's proposals on taxes and cuts in social programs. "He thinks some of our giveaway programs are not meeting their goals," he says of the Republican congressman.
Up and down I-4, the political lines are being defined,
There's Leigh Ann Horton, president of her security firm.
"I think we need a change," she says. "I'm super-hopeful things will change. It's not that we won't recover, but I think if the Republicans are elected, it will come faster ... I don't think the current administration has done a bunch for small businesses."
And there's Travis Joyner, a shop steward for UNITE HERE Local 362 who works at the Animal Kingdom Disney park. He likes Obama's job proposal and health plan and sees Romney's economic ideas as a dangerous retread.
"His mentality is, 'I'm going to take care of the rich people ...and once we do that, it's all trickle down,'" Joyner says. "But we've been there, done that and we've failed."
Still, Joyner is optimistic about a recovery.
"We've gone through tough times in our lives, and as a country," he says. "We're going to come out of this one way or another. The only question is will it be quick enough?"
Sharon Cohen is a Chicago-based national writer for The Associated Press. She can be reached at scohen(at)ap.org.
EDITOR'S NOTE _ Another story in an occasional series, 'It's the Economy,' looking at the economies of battleground states in the coming election.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.