Editors note: Campaigns are won and lost by how well candidates recruit supporters and then ensure those supporters turn out to vote. This series continues on Mondays through Election Day.
Sarah and Stephen Geis of Charlotte say they were luckier than many during the economic downturn, despite the fact that he lost his job and they struggled for months to make ends meet.
The couple, who have four children, managed to hold onto their house, which wasnt easy. She went back to work as a nurse to help pay bills, and he teamed with former co-workers to open the Charlotte office of an increasingly successful investment bank.
A lot of sacrifices were made, they say, but most of all it took patience.
The Geises believe that same approach will work in solving the problems being debated in this election.
I dont expect lightning-quick improvement, says Sarah, who was 7 when she moved here from Pennsylvania with her parents. People dont understand that this will take time. People have lost the idea of patience. It took the country quite a while to get to this point and it is going to take us a while to recover.
Middle-class couples like the Geises are among the most courted of the nations electorate this year.
President Barack Obama has made helping the middle class a centerpiece for many campaign proposals, while Mitt Romney has claimed they are the ones hardest hit by the presidents policies, including lower pay and growing debt.
Kevin and Michelle Boyle of Charlotte, who have three children, are among the middle-class families who are less inclined to stay the course.
Why are things no better, when we were promised that four years ago? says Michelle, who is originally from Morgantown, W.V. He (Obama) says hell do it in the next four years, but why didnt he do it in the last four years, like he promised? Why should I believe you this time when you are making the exact same promises?
Though they might differ on approaches, the Boyles and the Geises agree on the elections key issues, including high unemployment, rising national debt and slow economic growth.
The Geises say theyre also worried about how the country is perceived abroad, while the Boyles are baffled that a nation run by the most brilliant minds cant balance the countrys budget.
The next generation
Both couples say being parents has a lot to do with the way theyll vote in this election.
I think everybody votes based on what they think is best for the country, but having kids makes you start to think about what kind of country we are leaving behind for our kids and grandkids, says Kevin Boyle, who is originally from Dayton, Ohio.
Stephen Geis agrees and says being a father makes him less focused on money and more focused on being a part of the community.
What is life going to be like for my children? asks Stephen, who is a native of West Chester, Pa.. When I was single and had no children, I thought about things in the terms of how they are today. When youre 43 and have four children, you stop thinking about yourself and take a longer term view.
The Boyles, married for 11 years, say they were raised by Republican parents who voted but largely didnt discuss their politics in mixed company. Even now, Kevin says he makes it a point to keep his opinions to himself at work, calling it good professional etiquette. He works in the dental supply industry and his wife is a schoolteacher.
Theres a lot of strong feelings about it, too, and you dont want to offend people, he said.
Stephen Geis had a much more public approach to his politics in years past.
He and his wife were raised Republicans and he was president of the College Republicans during his sophomore year at the University of Pennsylvania.
A combination of things led to both husband and wife leaving the party, including costly wars and the partys views on social issues like poverty and the inclusion of gays and lesbians. It was so brave of the president to take a stand on supporting gay marriage. It can be politically risky. Im proud of him for publicly offering his support, Sarah says.
Right to exercise it
One other thing the couples have in common: Both see their vote as a right that shouldnt be taken for granted.
Our vote does count, says Michelle Boyle. If we want a say in the direction the country is going, its our duty to make our wishes known.
Adds Stephen Geis: My one vote in and of itself may not move the needle, but when combined with others with similar views, it gets people elected.