Michael Gibbs had a business administration degree and a series of jobs working in computer operations, cable installation and then customer service that, combined with his wife's income, paid well enough to enable the couple to buy a house for nearly $200,000 five years ago.

But he had always wanted to be a nurse.

The son of a Coast Guard technician and stay-at-home mom, Michael liked the idea of helping people. In fact, before he went to college, he had spent a year at a Bible college toying with the idea of becoming a pastor. A tall, burly man with the kind of "can-do" spirit he associates with Republicans, he has a knack for dealing with people.

After nearly 15 years of high-tech jobs, the past two years without a pay raise or any hope of career advancement as the economy went into recession, he decided to make his move. He got a part-time job at Elmbrook Memorial Hospital as a nursing assistant last year and planned to enroll in nursing school in the summer.

His parents had been against it. They didn't think men and nursing went together.

His wife, too, had been against it. "I'm ready for the second half of my life," Kristin says. "I want to go on vacations. I want to start redoing the house. I want to go out to dinner."

Even with her full-time job, his $20,000 salary at the hospital wouldn't get them there.

So Michael scanned the papers for a job to supplement his hospital work. He came across the warehouse job at InPro Corp., maybe a five-minute drive from their home. In less than two months, he was plucked out of the factory and promoted to a lucrative sales position.

To the delight of his family, he left his hospital job and dropped his plans for nursing school. He booked a family trip to Disney World for the fall. Kristin started making plans to remodel the basement.

They don't understand all the "doom and gloom," as Michael says, coming from the Democrats.

As they see it, the Republican economic policies that started with Ronald Reagan and have been embraced by George Bush - primarily tax cuts and support for business - have enabled Michael to move around in the job market, even dabble in nursing, and still land on his feet.

Aside from the money they saved in taxes thanks to Bush, they refinanced their home at a lower interest rate several years ago and went from a 30-year to a 20-year mortgage.

"We're right where we want to be," Michael says. "We're saving for retirement and college."

Michael resents the fact that Democrats blame Bush for the loss of jobs and the sputtering economy. He argues that the economic downturn started at the end of the Clinton presidency and was exacerbated by Sept. 11 and the war in Iraq, which he supports. He believes Bush is a man of convictions and has done a good job of helping to bring the economy back.

As for the drastic loss of manufacturing jobs in Wisconsin and other industrial states, he points to the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada that Clinton championed and signed.

"Wouldn't you think Bill Clinton's to blame for a lot of this, too?" Michael asks. "If you freed up free trade to go down to Mexico and pay somebody $1 an hour, versus paying somebody here $8 an hour to do a job, companies are going to choose to do business where they feel like doing business."

Growing up in families of Reagan Democrats, the Gibbses bristle at what they see as needless and wasteful government spending of their tax dollars and expensive government assistance programs they believe people take advantage of. "I am not a big fan of handouts," Michael says. "I like the idea of self-empowerment."

Michael sees the issue of taxes and the size of government as the chief difference between the parties. "The Democrats treat us as needy individuals," he says. "They don't let us do things for ourselves."

The couple fear that a President Kerry would raise the minimum wage, increase funds for workers compensation and, as the Democratic nominee has indeed promised, spend more money on health coverage for the uninsured by raising taxes on the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans.

"It killed me to hear John Kerry say, 'I'm going to take back those tax breaks that President Bush gave to the so-called rich,'" Michael says of the Democrat's acceptance speech. "If the rich are rich, they usually own companies and/or businesses, so that allows them to put more capital into their business maybe or into hiring more employees. So if they're going to take more money from the rich, to me that's just slowing down the economy."