Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani during a town-hall-style meeting in Boca Raton, Fla.
Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani during a town-hall-style meeting in Boca Raton, Fla. - 
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TESS VIGELAND: The leading Republican presidential candidates are in South Carolina for a debate tonight. That state makes its choice for a nominee a week from Saturday. Michigan holds its primaries next Tuesday. And these Republican candidates are starting to notice something on the minds of voters other than national security: The Economy. Jeremy Hobson reports.

JEREMY HOBSON: New Hampshire has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation. Michigan has the highest. It's a must-win state for Mitt Romney, who said this yesterday in Grand Rapids:

MITT ROMNEY: Michigan's one-state recession will come to an end if I'm president.

Rudy Giuliani is staking his political future on a win in Florida's primary. Foreclosures have hit that state hard. Here's the ad he debuted there today:

GIULIANI AD: With pundits handicapping the campaign like the Super Bowl, it's easy to lose sight of what's at stake. An economy in peril ...

Speaking of peril, John McCain is talking about aid for those who have lost their jobs in Michigan. And Mike Huckabee is talking about the downsides of free trade.

CHUCK CUSHMAN: It does have a much more populist feel than what you usually hear.

That's Chuck Cushman at the George Washington University School of Political Management. He says Republicans are worried by record Democratic turnout in the early states and need to show they feel voters economic pain. For Republican voter Lori Olson in Punta Gorda, Fla., the shift is welcome. I asked her if GOP candidates have focused enough on the economy until now.

LORI OLSON: No, I don't think they have. And I think too many special interests are keeping it focused away from the economy.

And, since the GOP controls the White House, says Chuck Cushman, it's especially important for Republican candidates to acknowledge economic distress.

CHUCK CUSHMAN: The party in power when the recession starts is the one that gets in trouble at the next election.

In Washington, I'm Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.

Follow Jeremy Hobson at @jeremyhobson