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Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York delivers an economic policy speech on Dec. 5, 2007, at the NASDAQ building in New York City. - 


KAI RYSSDAL: Neither politics, nor economics are zero sum games. There's usually a little something for everyone in both disciplines, but that may not be true in the presidential race. Democratic and Republican hopefuls are suddenly focusing on all things fiscal -- as are many voters, which could mean good fortune for some candidates, and tough times for others.

Stacey Vanek Smith reports.

STACY VANEK SMITH: Call it the 401K effect. Polls in Florida and California say voters put money matters at the top of their list of concerns. Six months ago it was Iraq around the clock. Now it's all about the economy stupid. Larry Sabato directs the center for politics at the University of Virginia. He says all the candidates will have to address our economic difficulties in the primaries. And that could give some an edge over others, says Politico's David Mark.

DAVID MARK: I think the biggest beneficiary is Mitt Romney.

Mark points out Romney made his fortune as a venture capitalist. He says the Massachusetts governor shines when he talks about economic issues. Mark says Rudy Giuliani is in a strong position because he can point to a history of cutting taxes.

RUDY GIULIANI: I cut taxes 23 times when I was mayor of New York City.

Mark says the focus on the economy could hurt John McCain who voted against Bush's tax cuts, and Mike Huckabee who raised taxes as governor of Arkansas. On the Democratic side, Mark says listen to Hillary Clinton who is cashing in on her husband's economic record.

HILLARY CLINTON: We don't have to go back very far in our history, in fact just to the 1990s, to see what happens when we do have a fiscally responsible budget.

Mark says Barak Obama and John Edwards aren't as clear cut on the economy, but he says both may benefit by sounding a populist note.

MARK: It's middle-income people. Folks who are trying to pay their mortgage, who have maybe a couple kids they're trying to get through college, those are people who may be most receptive to the Democratic message.

Come November, a sour economy could give the Democrats an edge. The Center for Politics' Larry Sabato says historically tough times have spelled victory for the challenging party.

I'm Stacey Vanek Smith for Marketplace.

Follow Stacey Vanek Smith at @svaneksmith