Florida voters are no different than their counterparts across the U.S. when it comes to what worries them most: the economy.
While the national unemployment rate tops 9 percent, things are even tougher in the Sunshine State. Florida's unemployment rate now stands at 10.7 percent, and shows no sign of budging.
Justin Sayfie, a well-known Florida political consultant and author of the Sayfie Review, says it's simple: "It's jobs, economic growth and unemployment."
Floridians are also near the top of the foreclosure list with only California having more foreclosure filings in August. Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida, say's it's a place Floridians aren't used to being.
"Floridians are used to an economy that rebounds in bad times, but this time it hasn't happened," she said.
She added that they are open to bold proposals, and warns candidates not to show up without a detailed plan of action. "It can't be generic, 'I'm gonna do it'; it has to be specific."
F.J. Cotter and his wife Christy are clearly concerned about the economy and say they now owe more on their house than it's worth. At Thursday's Fox News/Google presidential debate, they'll be listening for leadership. "I want to hear how they are going to spur growth back into the private sector," F.J. said.
Another topic candidates will have to navigate carefully is Social Security. Older voters are voicing concerns about whether their benefits will continue, and don't take criticism of the program's solvency lightly.
"Calling it a Ponzi scheme implies that it is a criminal enterprise, but Social Security is not criminal," said South Florida voter, Jeff Niefeld, 62, responding to Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s comparison of Social Security to a Ponzi scheme.
Sayfie says Florida's younger voters (those under 50 now make up nearly 50 percent of the electorate here) are open to having those tough conversations about entitlements.
"If you're a voter between the ages of 18 and 30 you're paying into the system and you don't have a reasonable belief that you're going to be paid, the words Ponzi scheme probably sound about right," Sayfie said.
With 29 electoral votes at stake, candidates know that winning over Florida's voters may be necessary for getting to the White House.
"There is an old saying that is very true,” MacManus said. “'As Florida goes, so does the nation.'"