PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — In the 24 hours leading up to Election Day 2022, WPTV crossed the state of Florida to get a solid sense of the pulse of voters.
Our crews traveled from West Palm Beach to Tampa, with stops at Rick's Diner in Port St. Lucie, which is a town where Democrats have a slight edge, and Hacienda Mexico Restaurante in Bartow, which is a small town near Tampa that leans Republican among registered voters.
WPTV found a mixed bag of emotions among voters with various political affiliations and beliefs because of the candidates, the issues and what it could all mean for the future.
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It's no problem to talk politics at Rick's Diner in Port St. Lucie, where registered Democrats outpace Republicans by about 6,000 voters but better keep it polite.
"If you want to fight, there's plenty of other places to go," Rick's Diner owner Mike Hyde said.
Otherwise, Hyde will kindly pick up the tab and ask you to leave.
"It's part of our politeness," Hyde said. "It's called buying your last meal."
Hyde can't remember the last time he had to make someone leave over politics. His customers, mostly regulars, oblige despite having very different feelings about the midterm elections.
"Overwhelmed, that would be it in a nutshell — overwhelmed," Erik Planet, who is a registered Democrat, said.
"We're very excited about the possibility of getting back to kind of normal life like we had a couple of years ago, before gas was horrible, before inflation was horrible," Dan Ryan, who is a registered Republican, said.
Across the state in the town of Bartow in Polk County, many people lean Republican.
"I'm scared about this county," Griff Fountain, a registered Democrat, said.
"I think they care extremely, and I think they're optimistic," Bruce Osthoff, a registered Republican, added.
Hacienda Mexico Restaurante is a town favorite for tacos and ripe with talk of the gubernatorial race and support for both incumbent Gov. Ron DeSantis and Democratic challenger Charlie Crist.
"I just love him. I think he has wonderful leadership," Osthoff said.
"A friend of mine called me and he put together a small sum of money, maybe $1,600, about eight of us raised and sent it to Charlie Crist," Griff Fountain, a registered Democrat, said.
But the chatter stops with owner Maria Ochoa, saying she's registered to vote, but nothing more.
"Politics divides people," Ochoa said. "Being a Mexican restaurant, if I go one way, I lose my Mexicans. If I go the other, I might lose my Americans, so I try to stay neutral."
She picks up on political tidbits constantly from customers.
"But usually what I hear, I never repeat," Ochoa said.