But when Hake rails about one of his biggest issues this election year — government's role in our lives — there is another reason for it: Two decades ago, when he applied to become a Denver cop like his dad, he was turned down. He says the letter cited "federally mandated hiring requirements."
"Basically affirmative action," says Hake, who instead spent six years in the Navy and now works in information technology for a construction company. "I won't lie. I was utterly devastated. ... That's what it boils down to. There is a time and a place for government intervention, and then there's a time not to intervene. There was a time when affirmative action was certainly needed, just like there was a time when unions served a purpose. I would like to think that in both those cases, we have moved past that."
Instead, he believes the federal government has only grown more interventionist. He fears the United States becoming a place "where people live on the dole from cradle to death."
His vision of America falls very much in line with that of Romney and running mate Paul Ryan: Everyone deserves equal opportunities but shouldn't be guaranteed equal outcomes.
This "it takes a village" vs. "make your own destiny" theme was just one resonating deeply among some of the voters in key swing states that may decide the election. And make no mistake: For many, these philosophical convictions mean far more to their decision-making process than any economic plan or budget.
In Columbus, Ohio, Kathy Tarrier would be much more conflicted about voting Democratic over Republican if fiscal issues alone guided her. Like many, she'd like to see a reduction in congressional earmarks and spending cuts for certain social programs.
But Tarrier is gay and a mother of two children with her partner of 25 years, and the positions of the two parties on the issue closest to her heart couldn't be more disparate.
The platform GOP convention-goers adopted last week backs a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union between one man and one woman, a position Romney supports. The Democratic platform that will be presented at the convention this week states the opposite. It endorses same-sex marriage, as Obama did earlier this year, and also calls for the repeal of a federal law that denies federal marriage benefits to same-sex couples.
"It doesn't feel good to be a second-class citizen," says Tarrier, 52, a systems administrator at the Franklin County public defender's office. "I've had people spit at me, and I've heard the slurs. Yeah, I want changes. I want the same civil rights as everybody else, as an individual and as a couple."
Tarrier's decision to vote for Obama rests not only in the parties' specific policy positions but in the principles that they represent. For her, it means the difference between a country that is inclusive or exclusive, one that can evolve and embrace change or one that regresses to something that feels more comfortable somehow.
The vision guiding her this election year: "I don't want to see what I consider the nation going backward."
Still others are very much looking to the past as they assess the election and their own desires for which direction the country heads.
Patricia Knight, 65, wants to go back to the ideals she was raised with as a girl growing up in the 1950s on Oyster Bay in Long Island, N.Y. To her that means showing respect: for one's elders, for oneself, for the Constitution and for life by once again outlawing abortion. "America was a better America before," says the retired kitchen designer who leads her local Republican women's club in Virginia Beach, Va.
Knight says she isn't afraid of change — for example, she doesn't oppose the morning-after pill in cases of rape and incest. But, for her, Obama's vision is one that brings too much change too fast.
For Lee Levin, co-founder of the Broward Tea Party in south Florida, looking back means getting back to the constitutional principles upon which the nation was founded: individual liberty and freedom from too much government control.