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Election 2012: Battleground Report

50-Plus Voters and the Social Safety Net

Floridians express their hopes and concerns about the future of Medicare and Social Security

En Español |Miguel Lopez's mother arrived in the United States as a refugee and never had the option of receiving Social Security. But the 66-year-old Lopez does, and he thinks the popular program should remain "untouched."

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Sigrid Swick, 75, has relied on both Social Security and Medicare, especially during several bouts of cancer. Her son Thor Swick, 50, isn't sure the programs will be around when he retires.

Edward Quinones, 78, is alarmed at what he sees as attacks on programs that people depend on — though he's open to eligibility changes to keep them solvent.

And Tammi Madison, 54, wishes younger people would be more realistic about their retirement math and make sure to have private funds and investments for their postwork years.

They are all Floridians, all residents of the pivotal I-4 corridor that stretches east and west from Orlando. It's also the central region of one of the presidential campaign battlegrounds. Like many Sunshine Staters, more than a third of whom are over 50, they are retired or thinking about retirement - and thinking even more about what the winning candidate will do to affect the lives of those who receive Social Security or Medicare.

The answers aren't so predictable. Retirees here love their Social Security and Medicare and largely feel they have earned and need both for secure retirement. But they do not automatically reject changes in the programs, either. Older voters have been following the debates over the escalating national deficit and debt and are aware of the financial stress that these programs put on the federal budget.

"It's a shame for people in my generation that it took so many years to get where we are, and then to find out the things we took for granted [like] Social Security are being so attacked," said Quinones, a retired executive for the American Soybean Association who lives in Clearwater. But at the same time, as longevity increases, "there's no doubt that the Social Security age has to be raised," he added.

Next: Romney, Obama divergent approaches on Social Security. »

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