Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Longtime Republican voters are airing new views

Many struggling families in the normally comfortable cul-de-sacs outside U.S. cities are thinking of switching parties.

Cheap mortgages and cheap gas built this sprawling landscape of tan and gray stucco homes, iron gates and golf course communities in Wesley Chapel, Fla.

And the people who flocked here over the last decade -- upwardly mobile young families in pursuit of lower taxes and wholesome neighborhoods -- emerged as a Republican voting bloc crucial to President Bush's 2004 reelection.

But listen to Anna Rodriguez and her neighbors who gather nightly on lawn chairs to unwind, and a change comes into focus that could shift the national political landscape in 2008 and beyond.

The boom that turned swamps and pastures into a suburban mecca has stopped dead. Now the talk is about plummeting home values, rising food costs, and gas prices that make the once-painless half-hour commute to Tampa a financial strain.

It's enough to give some here the sense that maybe, this time around, the Republicans do not deserve their votes.