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The economy, number one concern

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Samantha Hayes, Washington, D.C.

March 17, 2008

Instead of finding a four leaf clover on this St. Patrick's Day, many Americans would feel lucky to find more green in another place: their wallets.

A new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released today shows 42 percent of Americans believe the economy is the most important issue in the upcoming election, followed by the war in Iraq at 21 percent. A lot has changed in just six months. In October of last year, 28 percent felt the war a top concern and 22 percent ranked the economy number one.

In a rare weekend move, the Federal Reserve approved another quarter cut in its discount rate, which is the rate at which the Fed loans money to financial institutions.  Tuesday the Federal Open Markets Committee holds its regular meeting and is expected to cut another key interest rate, perhaps as much as a full percentage point.

All of the Presidential candidates have acknowledged the state of the economy, and today both Democratic candidates brought it up on the campaign trail. Speaking to supporters in Monaca, Pennsylvania, Barack Obama said "the news coming from Wall Street today has confirmed our fears that the financial fallout from the mortgage crisis would spill over into the wider economy. Months ago, I went to Wall Street and said that our capital markets could not function without the confidence and trust of the public. I said that Wall Street could not succeed while the rest of America struggled. Now, as the Federal Reserve does its best to bring stability to the market, we must focus on what we can do to restore the public's confidence in the market and help the millions of Americans who are worried about their jobs, their homes, and their financial future."

Hillary Clinton, stumping in Washington, D.C., also had strong words about the economy, warning, "I cannot stress to you, we are in a very dangerous period in the economy, we need vigilance, and we need leadership and we've got to get it from this administration."

The national poll also shows that 74 percent believe the country is a recession.  And many Americans feel it's going to be a while before things turn around. 34 percent think the economy will be in a recession for one to two years.            

And that may indicate that voters expect whoever is elected President to make economic policy a top priority.

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