MIAMI — It isn't about the war, guns, abortion or health care. The presidential election in Florida is all about the economy, stupid.
As the nation's economy falters along with Florida's housing industry, a new Miami Herald poll has found that the economy is the top concern of 38 percent of voters. That's double the number who cited managing the Iraq war, the No. 2 issue. Only 10 percent of Floridians surveyed said terrorism's their top concern.
Sensing this trend, the Republicans' primary campaign events in Florida have started resembling finance and economy lectures, rather than foreign-policy roundtables or faith-based pitches to the faithful. Florida Republicans vote next Tuesday.
"Everyone's nervous about this economy," said Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway, who conducted the poll for The Miami Herald, The St. Petersburg Times and Bay News 9 with Democratic pollster Schroth, Eldon & Associates.
The issue cuts across party and demographic lines, unlike, say, controlling immigration, which is the third-highest concern of Floridians.
"This also marks the re-emergence of domestic issues on the minds of Floridians," Conway said. "There's a real urgency to address domestic issues, particularly the kitchen-table and economic pocketbook concerns."
The state's economy is faltering faster than the nation's, and economists predict that it will be in worse shape longer.
Candidates from both parties are pushing economic stimulus plans that would rebate some tax money. The Republicans call for deeper and permanent across-the-board tax cuts for corporations and individuals.
The Democrats, saying the nation can't afford that, want temporary tax rebates for low- and middle-income people. But the Democratic candidates aren't campaigning in Florida because the national party barred Florida delegates from the convention after the state broke party rules by moving its primary date to January.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is the favored candidate among Florida Republicans who rank the economy as their top concern; he gets 31 percent of their votes.
About 23 percent of the economy-fretters favor former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who quiets crowds when he strays from talk of 9/11 to taxes, is favored least on the issue, garnering only 13 percent of their votes.
McCain and Romney are attacking each other's economic records.
McCain's camp cites a Massachusetts taxpayer group that says that Romney, while governor, presided over "anemic'' job growth and raised taxes and fees.
Romney bashes McCain for flip-flopping on President Bush's tax cuts. McCain voted against them in 2003, saying that cutting taxes in a time of war would widen the budget deficit and hurt the economy.
But McCain now says that the tax cuts should stay. The reason for his shift: Eliminating a tax cut is a tax increase, he says.
Asked about his former logic — whether the nation could afford both a war and tax cuts — McCain said: "Sure, with a healthy economy, absolutely." He then shifted to focus on the war in Iraq.
Romney has released the most detailed plan of any candidate. In a literal sign of his economic push, Romney's folks switched out his standard "Washington is Broken'' banner, which usually hangs above him at events, for a new one that proclaims in giant lettering "Economic Turnaround." It hung above Romney on Wednesday when he made a stump speech at Keiser University in Sarasota.
Romney also debuted a Florida ad touting his history as a former venture-capital guru who gained a reputation as a financial turnaround artist for struggling companies and the Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Like the other Republican candidates, Romney has avoided explaining how tax cuts can revive the economy, considering the poor condition of the state and national economies after Bush's tax cuts.
Instead, Romney harkens back to his winning strategy in Michigan, where his cheery promises appealed to many in the hard-times state.
"This is a worry, right now, an anxiety that you find as you go across the country," Romney said. "I'm convinced that you don't have to be anxious."
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee makes frequent pitches to middle-class people hurt by high gas prices. He's also the only top Republican spotlighting conservative social issues, from halting abortions to banning gay marriage. Stopping in Fort Lauderdale Wednesday evening, he said his solution to the economic troubles was to ban income taxes in favor of a national sales tax.
(Woods, Klas and Caputo report for The Miami Herald.)