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Super Tuesday results shed light on economic issues

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Bob Moon: Now that Super Tuesday has played out, we’re getting a sharper focus on what voters care about most. Across the board from Georgia to Ohio, and up to Vermont, six in ten voters considered the economy the top issue. In the end, Mitt Romney captured six state contests; Santorum three. Gingrich won just his home state of Georgia; Ron Paul failed to win any contest.

Marketplace’s Mitchell Hartman can help us dissect this. Good morning.

Mitchell Hartman: Hi, Bob.

Moon: So how does this focus on the economy play out amongst the field?

Hartman: Well, it cuts all ways, depending on where you sit in the economy. Romney polls best among higher-income, urban and suburban people. Santorum and Gingrich do better among lower-income and rural Republicans. That may say something about Romney’s own background, that voters don’t identify with him if they’re not in that income bracket. And Santorum has appealed to people he identifies with — that’s Rust Belt working class.

Moon: And what about after the primary, and the general election?

Hartman: Well, six months ago, analysts would have said the economy benefits the Republicans and hurts the president. Now, maybe not so much. The economy’s getting better. And so it’s harder to make the case on everything from job growth to the deficit.

Stan Collender is a budget analyst in Washington. 

Stan Collender: When the economy is bad, people say it’s the budget’s fault; when inflation is roaring and soaring, it’s the budget’s fault and we’ve got to do something about the deficit. But when people are feeling better about their employment prospects and compensation prospects and home prices, concern about the deficit tends to go down.

Moon: It woudl seem though, Mitchell, that Romney is still the front runner today. Is he going to continue to push his experience in the economy, his private business experience?

Hartman: You know, that is certainly strongest message — he keeps coming back to it — against Gingrich, Santorum, Ron Paul, not to mention President Obama. But Stan Collender says in this particular political moment, because of the financial crash and the role some financial executives played in it, this isn’t necessarily a slam dunk for Romney either.

Collender: There is a lot of belief in the private sector in the U.S. I mean, it’s in our DNA. Ultimately, it’s going to come down to: Is Obama a good manager vs. Romney? Would he be a good manager?

And there’s still plenty of economy still to go before November. Gas prices are going up; Europe and Greece clearly aren’t out of the woods. Job growth has been solid and we just got some encouraging numbers this morning from ADP. But look, it still could stall again. We’ll see on Friday how it was going in February.

Moon: Marketplace’s Mitchell Hartman, thanks.

Hartman: You’re welcome.

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