Listening to the Voters: Orange County, FL

If you're reading this, you may be ruminating on who to vote for come November, sifting through the ads, the commentary and the coverage. The fate of the nation is in your hands.  The majority of Americans reside in states that have long been determined to tilt one way or another.  Unless, of course, you live in one of the so-called swing states, such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and, with 29 electoral votes in play, Florida.

If you are an undecided voter in the Sunshine State, this election is truly about you.

Months ahead of the general election, all eyes are on the independents that live along the I-4 corridor in Orange County, Florida. The 130 mile stretch of highway runs from Tampa through Orlando and up to Daytona Beach. Residents living along I-4 in Orange County, tell Fox News, they are voting on the economy.  They want their business back, their homes back, their lives back.

Orange County, a suburban county that sits outside of Orlando, had been a boom town for years - local businesses thriving, housing prices soaring.

But now the residents who live in the shadows of Walt Disney World, called "The Happiest Place on Earth", live in constant fear of home foreclosures, putting food on the table, and the future of their children.  This election is shaping up to be a referendum on the recession.

Mary Lee Walker has owned her home in Orange County for 13 years.

Her son has never called any other place home, but he may soon be forced to move.  This past January, Walker's husband lost his job.  As the paychecks stopped coming in, bills stopped being paid and then mortgage payments were the next to go.  "I am angry that we can't provide what we thought we could , both my husband and I are hard working, we are experienced," explained Walker.

Walker added that the whole idea of the "American Dream" is a falsehood, "I think the American Dream now is putting food on the table, getting through day by day, we are month to month trying to figure out how everything will work out."

Like many of her Orange County neighbors, Walker is an independent voter, struggling to make ends meet but also struggling to decide which candidate bodes the best for her future.  Ultimately, Walker says, her main concern is getting the economy back on track, and she is leaning towards President Obama.  "I think he needs four more years so he can implement some changes here in America, we need to give him a chance, I think the economy he came into originally, was totally different than what he campaigned."

Few counties have felt the pain more than the people in Orange County. Foreclosure and short sale signs once littered neighborhoods, and houses were left in shambles.

Fox News did find some glimmers of hope in the area.  Real estate agents say there has been an uptick in the local housing market.

Marnie Vaughn with OneRes International Realty says the trend is turning away from distressed sales and shifting slightly more towards traditional sales. In fact, she says, the investment market is "really good."

Still, the housing bust is always on the minds of the voters, especially Ernie and Marie Markey.

The Markeys lost their savings, their home, and their thriving business in the recession. Their granite business, Winter Park Granite, now only has six employees,  down from as many as forty, and the Markeys can't even afford to provide health coverage to the six who remain..

"There's no vacations,  there's no extra things, we used to go fishing, boating, there is none of that, we just work seven days a week and that is our life,"  Mr. Markey said.

Markey, also an independent, told us the only thing on his mind when it comes to casting his ballot in November, is the recession.

He hasn't decided who will get his vote, but it will be the candidate who can lead the country to a brighter day . "I've been through a lot of recessions, eight months a year, but this is three and a half years, that is what is in my mind, three and a half years of being in a recession."

Tamara and Jay Ritterskamp bought their house in 2003 and it is now worth half its value. The Ritterskamps are worried about their future, but mostly they fear the world that their nine year old son will inherit.  "I don't see it getting any better in the future, it just seems like it is going to get worse and worse because people aren't making the right decisions, Tamara said.  The Ritterskamps plan on voting for Governor Romney in November.

But mostly, the independent voters of Orange County are looking for answers.  The good news for them is that if you are swing voters Central Florida, you will get plenty of them.  In order for President Obama or Governor Romney to take Orange County, each candidate will have to work hard to convince these voters that there's reason to believe, better days are ahead.