SNEAK PEEK: Economy Replaces Iraq as Top Concern

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23 Days Until the Iowa Caucuses

The Republican '08ers (including Alan Keyes!) take part Wednesday in a 2:00 pm ET Des Moines Register debate.

The 90-minute affair, which takes place in Johnston, Iowa, will be broadcast live on Iowa Public Television.

It will also be carried live around the country by the Fox News Channel, the Cable News Network, and C-SPAN 3.

The GOP showdown comes on the heels of a new ABC News/Washington Post poll showing that the economy, for the first time, has surpassed the war in Iraq as the top concern among likely voters.

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"Among all Americans, 44 percent now say the economy's one of the top issues in their vote for president, up 15 points from last month; 37 percent name Iraq, down eight."

The coverage of Mike Huckabee's surge has largely focused on the consistency of his socially conservative views.

But he also has stood apart from his Republican rivals in giving voice to economic angst.

He hasn't done it with white papers (doesn't have the staff for that). LINK

Instead, he's done it with a mix of Lava soap, anecdotes from his days as a Baptist minister, and a promise to make sure that pimps and prostitutes pay their fair share.

"For many people on this stage," Huckabee said at the CNBC debate, "the economy's doing terrifically well, but for a lot of Americans it's not doing so well. The people who handle the bags and make the beds at our hotels and serve the food, many of them are having to work two jobs. And that's barely paying the rent."

"And you know what else?" he continued. "They don't think that they can afford for their kids to go to college. They're pretty sure they're not going to be able to afford health insurance."

Contrast Huckabee's answer with the answer given by a Gucci-wearing rival. LINK

""I think there is no reason to believe that we're headed for a recession," said Fred Thompson. ". . . I think that not enough has been done to tell what some call the greatest story never told, and that is that we are enjoying a period of growth right now and we should acknowledge what got us there and continue those same policies on into the future."

When you combine Huckabee's populist pitch with the Kirsten Fedawa-arranged meals, is there any wonder how Huckabee became what Howard Kurtz calls the media's "favorite Republican"? LINK and LINK

On the heels of his "Holy Huckabee" Newsweek cover, the former Arkansas governor has landed the cover of the forthcoming New York Times Magazine. LINK

For his part, Mitt Romney has snagged the National Review's endorsement. LINK

New National Poll Numbers

Here are the latest national horse-race numbers from ABC News/Washington Post:

Republicans:

Giuliani: 25

Huckabee: 19

Romney: 17

Thompson: 14

McCain: 12

Democrats:

Clinton: 53

Obama: 23

Edwards: 10

Full results:

Obama Dogged by 1996 Questionnaire

On the Democratic side, Camp Clinton has put aside its questions about character and kindergarten in order to step up its electability argument against Barack Obama.

The new Clinton effort began with her aides, or what is known in the trade as "political sources opposed to Obama's presidential campaign," giving Politico a decade-old Obama questionnaire. LINK

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