U.S. Democrat presidential candidate John Edwards addresses a political meeting in Keene, N.H.
U.S. Democrat presidential candidate John Edwards addresses a political meeting in Keene, N.H. - 
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Scott Jagow: With the New Hampshire primary today, it looks like an old election adage is making a comeback. I'll give you a hint: the housing market, gas prices, higher unemployment, the credit crunch. Here's John Dimsdale.

John Dimsdale: This year, Leon Panetta, who was President Bill Clinton's chief of staff, is expecting to hear a campaign theme that helped elect his old boss in 1992.

Leon Panetta: I don't think there's any question that James Carville's comment about "It's the economy, stupid" is going to resurrect itself.

To capture a wave of economic anxiety, Panetta, who is also a former congressman from California, recommends that candidates promise to make everyone share the burdens equally.

Panetta: In a down time, when the economy is not doing well, people are basically going to ask the question, "Am I being treated fairly, or am I paying a price for the benefits that flow to somebody else?"

Gabor Szakacs is an engineer from Nashua, New Hampshire, who's worried about Washington's budget and trade deficits, as well as the decline in the quality of local jobs. He's looking for a candidate who will be independent of corporate influence in Washington.

Gabor Szakacs: To me, a lot of the other issues are the result of the symptoms of this corporate and the sponsorship hold over the candidates after they're in office.

For Szakacs, Democratic candidate John Edwards' message of economic populism will win his vote today.

If the economy's doldrums last through much of 2008, Democratic candidates are the likely beneficiaries, says Jason Furman, the director of the Brooking Institution's Hamilton Project.

Jason Furman: In a way, it fits right in with the Democratic race. Because they've never been very positive about how the economy was doing for typical families, or how the president was managing the economy. So its easy for any of those candidates to pivot to a policy that's based on fiscal stimulus, that's based on getting money into the pockets of the families that are having a hard time in the economy today.

But economists warn that a lengthy economic downturn will put severe budgetary constraints on whoever wins the election this November. And that will make carrying out those promises of change all the tougher.

In Washington, I'm John Dimsdale for Marketplace.