With the parties just weeks away from the first presidential nominating contests, economic concerns are seizing a top spot in many voters' minds. Falling housing prices, rising gasoline prices and health-insurance worries are supplanting the war in Iraq and concern over terrorism.
"The middle class already is suffering from falling real incomes, even before this new economic slowdown," says investment banker Roger Altman, an economic adviser to Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton. "This slowdown suggests the economy, once again, will be the No. 1 issue in 2008."
All the leading Democratic candidates are touting plans to broaden or guarantee health coverage as one recipe for easing economic uncertainty. Other steps such as middle-class tax cuts and college aid are also moving front and center. Sen. Clinton addressed the housing mess this week, proposing a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures and a five-year freeze on adjustable mortgage rates.