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Voting on the Economy vs. Voting on Abortion

11/06/2012 09:40 am ET | Updated Jan 06, 2013

All year long, polls upon polls have been conducted, taking the up-to-date temperature of the electorate, gauging its interests, its hopes, disappointments -- measuring what's most important.

This data largely impacts the focus of the presidential campaigns, dictating their long-term focus, so if voters say their minds are overwhelmingly set on the economy, stupid, well then that is largely what you'll hear and have heard from presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

Not only have campaign surrogates been pushing the economic agendas of their respective candidates, there have been some, mostly on the Republican end, that have tended to belittle the importance of many other issues that are debatably of equal or greater importance, for example, abortion.

We like to determine what will be the issues to vote on in the coming election, that is, what will be the single most important issue that swings a vote one way or the other, despite any other possible incompatibilities one has with their chosen candidate. It is decidedly the economy, not something like abortion rights, but the question to ask isn't whether you base your vote on who will better handle the economy, it's should you base your vote on how you think a candidate will handle the economy.

The consensus among a philosophically non-partisan group of economists is that a president has little control over the ebbs and flows of our capitalist system.

Economist and former chairman of President Obama's Council of Economic Advisors Austan Goolsbee has said,

I think the world vests too much power -- certainly in the president, probably in Washington in general -- for its influence on the economy, because most all of the economy has nothing to do with the government.

In a nod to Goolsbee, the co-author of Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, Stephen Dubner, explained in a March interview that the number one misunderstood function of government is its control over the economy.

Dubner noted former President Bill Clinton's campaign slogan, "It's the economy, stupid," as a potent one, but substantively lacking a grip on reality.

He explained,

Just once I'd love a presidential candidate to get up there on the stump and say: 'My fellow Americans, I can't control the U.S. economy. I've got a little bit of influence but mostly it does what it does. So if it gets worse on my watch, you shouldn't blame me -- and if it happens to get better, you probably shouldn't give me too much credit either.'

Despite the lack of real influence the POTUS has over the economy, it's still number one in voters' hearts. But some argue that it shouldn't be. Some argue that reproductive rights, abortion rights in particular, are more critical, as they are matters the president actually has control over.

Often, abortion goes under the radar in an election season when there's no immediate threat to abortion legislation like Roe v. Wade in the coming presidential term.

But this is not one of those elections.

Currently, there are two Democratic and two Republican judges who are over 74 years of age, making the idea of an open seat less of a theory and more of a looming reality.

It is likely that the next president of the United States will get to appoint a new Supreme Court Judge, which could either threaten or further secure Roe v. Wade.

But just a few short weeks ago, Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson (R) played down the fragile status of abortion rights, saying, "[It's simply] not an issue here... it doesn't even move the radar at all."

Republican Congressional Candidate John Koster agreed with Johnson's sentiment as he dismissively referenced "the rape thing," deeming it a non-issue as he continues to push for the outlaw of abortion without exceptions for rape and incest.

Regardless of your political stance on abortion, it would appear that voting on matters that are largely dismissed as "social issues," and are therefore, secondary to what really counts in an election, actually make the most sense to base your vote on.

Everyone's worried, waiting and watching as the economy soldiers on in its slow but steady recovery, from the father on the unemployment line to the small business owner to the single mom. But worrying, waiting and watching is arguably what the president does, as well.

It's the fear of many that something really tangible -- something like rolling back reproductive rights -- will take a backseat and be set aside in this election, at least until the country is explicitly faced with the fateful vote to overturn Roe, but by then, it might be too late.