As gas prices soar, both John McCain and Barack Obama are spending the first official week of the 2008 general election focusing their attention on economy, with events, interviews and campaign conference calls.
ABC News' Dan Arnall reports that according to the latest government figures, gasoline is now $4.04 a gallon on average in the U.S. That is six cents higher than last week's mark and the first time it has ever topped the $4 milestone. The average price is 31% higher than the price last year ($3.08).
Among all Democratic primary voters this cycle, 51 percent cited the economy as the single most important issue in their vote, nearly twice as many who picked the number two issue, Iraq.
Among Republican primary voters, 40 percent cited the economy as the single most important issue, nearly twice as many who picked the number two issue, illegal immigration.
Voters are speaking loudly and clearly and the candidates are listening and maneuvering to stake their ground on this key issue.
On Tuesday, McCain is the keynote speaker at the NFIB & eBay 2008 National Small Business Summit. Per his campaign, McCain will outline his policies to strengthen the nation's small businesses and get the economy back on track by helping small businesses hire workers, create jobs and raise wages.
On Day Two of an 11-day swing on the economy, Obama will campaign in Missouri, a battleground state this fall. The presumptive Democratic nominee will visit a hospital in St. Louis to discuss the impact of health care costs on economic challenges, ABC News' Sunlen Miller reports.
Miller reports that at his event in Raleigh, NC today, Obama noted that he was joined by John and Elizabeth Edwards and said he will enlist Elizabeth's help in health care policy.
"I'm going to be partnering up with Elizabeth Edwards - we're going to be figuring all this out," Obama said when addressing his proposed reform to the health care system. Miller notes that Mrs. Edwards has stated in the past that she supported Senator Hillary Clinton's health care plan because it mandated people to have health insurance – a requirement that Senator Obama's plan does not include.
The Obama campaign says that formal talks are not yet in the works between the Illinois senator and Mrs. Edwards, but confirm that this is something they will do in the future. "Her presence here speaks volumes," spokeswoman Jen Psaki says, "Senator Obama hopes she will play an active part in his efforts."
In the same remarks in Raleigh, Obama linked McCain's economic policies to George Bush, a refrain that should become quite familiar over the next five months. Speaking of McCain's support for the Bush tax cuts, Obama said "the centerpiece of his economic plan amounts to a full-throated endorsement of George Bush's policies," per ABC News' Jake Tapper.
Adding a boost to Obama's hammering away at McCain on this issue, Democratic leaders will gather at the DNC on Tuesday to hold a press conference and discuss how the economy will be used to contrast their presumptive nominee from the Republican's nominee. DNC Chairman Howard Dean, Senate Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, DGA Chairman Joe Manchin and other Democratic leaders will participate in the press conference.