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Candidates Strive to Address Voter Concerns on Economy

Exit polling from Tuesday's New Hampshire primary shows that the economy was the top concern among voters in the state, ahead of the Iraq war, healthcare and immigration. Financial reporters explain what candidates are doing to ease voters' economic anxieties.

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    When voters in New Hampshire cast their ballots this week, economic worry was very much on their minds. According to exit polls from Tuesday's primary, the top issue for both Democrats and Republicans was the economy, edging out the Iraq war, health care, and immigration.

    Asked to assess their level of concern about the economy, 97 percent of the Democrats said they were very or somewhat worried; 80 percent of the Republicans said the same.

    Nearly 60 percent of voters in both parties said their own family's financial situation was "holding steady," but 28 percent of Democrats and 17 percent of Republicans said they were "falling behind."

    To explore what's driving this economic anxiety and how the candidates are addressing it, we're joined by Daniel Gross, financial columnist for Slate and Newsweek magazine, and Stephen Moore, senior economics writer for the Wall Street Journal and a member of the paper's editorial page board.

    Welcome to you both.

    Daniel Gross, beginning with you, I mean, it was quite amazing that this would be the number-one issue to voters. They were more worried about it than terrorism or immigration or the war in Iraq.

    What is driving this? Why are people so apparently anxious about the economy?

  • DANIEL GROSS, Financial Columnist:

    Well, the news over the last few weeks, especially post-Christmas, has been almost uniformly bad. We had a jobs report. The private sector didn't really create any jobs in November. Manufacturing is now contracting.

    Inflation is high. Oil is at $97 a barrel. In New Hampshire, they have to pay for heating oil, which is very high.

    There is good reason to be anxious. The economy is stalled. It may be heading into recession. Consumers have certainly keeled over. All the retail reports we're getting show that sales in December were quite poor.

    And, you know, we've had six years of economic growth without a noticeable increase in median incomes or without an increase in the percentage of people who have health insurance. So if this is as good as it gets, that could be reason to worry.

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