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Kai Ryssdal: It's been 15 years since we first heard the phrase "It's the economy, stupid." Financial discontent helped Bill Clinton win back in 1992.

Polls show the economy's moving up on the list of things voters care about in next year's elections, too. So House Democrats held a little meeting in Washington today.

They gathered to hone the economic message they want to spread over the next 11 or so months. And Republicans have been fine tuning theirs so they can blame the other side if the economy hits a speed bump.

Our Washington bureau chief John Dimsdale reports.

John Dimsdale: The Democrats at today's meeting with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi called for more interest rate cuts from the Federal Reserve Board. They also endorsed legislation to stimulate the economy. That would include assistance for neighborhoods hard-hit by mortgage foreclosures and extra Earned Income Tax Credits for low-income families.

Democrats aren't the only ones thinking about a political strategy for a troubled economy. As chairman of the Republican party during the 1980s, Frank Fahrenkopf is only too familiar with who takes a political hit when the economy goes south.

Frank Fahrenkopf: If the economy is turning down, continues to turn down as we get closer to election day, always the party in power gets the blame.

Fahrenkopf's advice for Republicans? Remind voters that Democrats in control of Congress have been unable to pass a cohesive economic strategy. House Republicans have already gone further. Earlier this week they issued a report accusing Democrats of scaring businesses into cutting back on investments by proposing big tax hikes.

But Emory University professor Alan Abramowitz says it's the Republicans who should worry. He says a long list of financial troubles, from mortgage foreclosures to high oil prices have already shaken up voters.

Alan Abramowitz: Given the negative perceptions of the economy now and the likelihood that those will continue or even perhaps get worse, it's generally going to be a very difficult political environment for Republican candidates.

Abramowitz says Republicans' only chance is to run as the party of change. And that's going to be tough to do as the incumbent party for almost eight years.

In Washington, I'm John Dimsdale for Marketplace.