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Presidential candidates tackle the Iraq War

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Samantha Hayes, Washington D.C.

April 8, 2008

          Political talk today will be focused on the War in Iraq as the presidential candidates resume their day jobs as senators and listen to the testimony of General David Petraeus.  But it's likely that another issue, domestic in nature, will take the spotlight again shortly.

          Over and over again, Americans have said the economy is their top concern. And in that regard, Senator John McCain, the Republican nominee-in-waiting, got some good news this week. CNN confirmed that Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan is supporting his campaign.  "I am a Republican and expect to vote for the Republican candidate," Greenspan said in a statement, "but I am not involved in politics."  McCain has said before that he would seek Greenspan's council on economic issues if he became the next President. 

          McCain recently delivered a speech on the ailing economy where he targeted bad lending practices as a major cause of the mortgage crises. As a candidate, he has also said, "I don't know as much about the economy as I should," a comment that his Democratic rivals have consistently used to criticize him.

          In regards to Greenspan's support, McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said "it should reassure voters that, while John McCain is humble, he is still the best qualified candidate to keep taxes low and get our economy back on track."

          McCain may have already been trying to send signals to economic conservatives when he named former Texas Senator and close friend Phil Gramm as his chief economic advisor last summer. Gramm retired from the Senate in 2002 and has been working as an investment banker at UBS.  He helped McCain, whose campaign was essentially bankrupt last year, cut staff and shrink the campaign budget. McCain emerged as the Republican underdog heading into the primary season. 

          McCain also has Carly Fiorina, the ousted CEO of Hewlitt-Packard, on his financial team.  Ms. Fiorina told the New York Times that she believes Democratic infighting between Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton will benefit the Republican campaign by saving it a lot of money. In other words, the Democrats' candidates are revealing each other's negatives for McCain to use in the general election campaign.  But McCain, who is well behind his Democratic rivals in fundraising, has stepped up efforts to bring in money. March was a good fundraising month and McCain's campaign raised fifteen million dollars.

          While McCain gets high marks for his national security experience, the rise of the economy as the number one issue may present another way for him to bring conservatives together. McCain will probably continue to be dogged by some in his party for his voting record against President Bush's tax cuts, but a vote of confidence from Greenspan may help him overcome doubts from fiscal conservatives.

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