Jeff and Maria Ruthizer split an extra lean corned beef sandwich at Ben's New York Kosher Delicatessen, then chewed over the state of the country.
"The nation is a disaster," Jeff Ruthizer said. "We're very, very worried about America in the next four years and in the next decade – very concerned."
"Nothing is going to get done," said Maria Ruthizer. "And we're going to sink deeper and deeper into the pit."
Tuesday night, President Barack Obama will tell Congress and the nation what he thinks the State of the Union is. In the days preceeding the speech, a Sun Sentinel reporter crisscrossed Palm Beach and Broward counties to see how people here assess the condition America is in, and what they hope Obama will say.
Our findings: There's a yearning among South Floridians for good news on the economy and a desire to see Democrats and Republicans put aside their differences and work for the betterment of the country. The sentiment is expressed by Obama fans as well as those who hate him and cuts across age, gender, ethnic, sexual orientation, employment status and political party differences.
From the diners savoring the mushroom and barley soup and tongue Polonaise with raisin gravy at Ben's to folks breakfasting on bacon and eggs at the Red Fox Diner in Lighthouse Point, and other South Floridians interviewed at work or play, there's a common concern about the state of the country – an uncertainty mixed with skepticism over whether Obama's report to the nation at 9 p.m. will make their lives any better.
There's not much of value that a frustrated Jerry Rosenberg expects to hear from the president – even though he and his wife, Rhoda, voted for Obama's re-election.
"I wear blinders because I don't want to see what's going on. There's no cooperation. Nothing gets done and people suffer," he said.
The Rosenbergs – he's 78 and retired from accounting; she's 71 and a retired secretary – thought they'd do OK after they stopped working, but their retirement west of Delray Beach has been much tighter than they expected, something Rhoda Rosenberg said is widespread.
"There's a lot of things we really have to cut back. It's difficult right now," she said. "I don't see anything improving…. People aren't spending money like they used to. They're afraid. They can't. They don't have it to spend."
Still, the Rosenbergs don't blame the Democratic president now beginning his second term. "He's doing the best job he can under the circumstances," Jerry Rosenberg said.
Ruthizer, 70, is a retired senior executive for Disney-owned ABC television and a Republican. Maria Ruthizer, 65, is a no-party affiliation/independent voter. Both get Social Security and Medicare, but don't think the programs can continue the way they are – a subject they'd like Obama to focus on Tuesday night.
Jeff Ruthizer's advice to the president: "I'd love to hear him say, not just words, but that he has a serious plan in mind for cutting back on entitlements, which is what's bankrupting the country. He toys with that concept every now and then, but he never puts anything into action."
Here are other South Floridians, and their sense of the country in 2013:
Immigration a top concern
Artist Leonardo Montoya of Margate said it's difficult to make ends meet nowadays by selling his works and painting murals. "With the economy and people losing their houses, they don't get to do many decorating jobs [or buy] the kind of art work that I do," he said.
So Montoya, 40, sells fragrances at a department store before Christmas, Mother's Day and other big holidays, and is trying to land a permanent retail job.
"I'm struggling," he said. Still, the native of Colombia and 15-year U.S. resident working toward citizenship said he's "very optimistic" about the future.
Immigration and what to do with the millions of people illegally in the country are likely to get a big mention in Obama's speech. Montoya is a legal U.S. resident, but says immigration reform is an important issue. "I have the privilege of being able to move around without fear, but [for] those that don't have that opportunity, it's a lot more tough," he said. As a Hispanic, he said, "it touches us deeply as a community."