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Iraq, Economy, Health Care Top Issues for US Voters 

Public opinion polls show the war in Iraq, the economy, and health care are the issues Americans care about most in the 2008 presidential race. VOA's Cindy Saine takes a look at the various domestic issues likely to resonate with voters next year.

As voters get ready to choose their presidential candidates, the housing market is declining, oil prices are soaring and the stock market is volatile. Opinion polls show voters are worried about the future of the economy, saying it is the top domestic issue on their minds.

Karlyn Bowman monitors public opinion at the American Enterprise Institute. She says, "There is a lot of talk in American politics about our economy may be heading into a recession. Certainly the public is very pessimistic on that score, with about 70 percent of Americans saying that we are heading into a recession. "

Polls show the other domestic issue voters mention most often is health care. Millions have no health insurance at all, while millions more pay high insurance fees for limited services.

The top two Democratic candidates, Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama, have been vying to distinguish their own health care plan from their rivals.

"I have a universal health care plan that covers everyone,” said Senator Clinton during a recent debate. “I've been fighting this battle against the special interest for more than 15 years, and I am proud to fight this battle."

Then Senator Obama countered, "What I see are people who would love to have health care. They desperately want it. But the problem is they can't afford it, which is why we have put forward legislation -- we've put forward a plan that makes sure that it is affordable to get health care that is as good as the health care that I have as a member of Congress."

Among Republicans, illegal immigration is a hot button issue. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, during a TV debate, accused former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani of welcoming illegal immigrants into the city. Giuliani hit back. "There is even a sanctuary mansion. At his own home illegal immigrants were being employed." To which Mr. Romney said, "Mayor, you know better than that." However, Romney has since fired the landscaping firm he had employed at his home.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee -- whose support has surged in recent weeks -- has taken a different tack on illegal immigration. He fended off an attack by Romney who criticized him for supporting a proposed state scholarship program that would have included the children of illegal immigrants. "In all due respect,” said Huckabee, “we are a better country than to punish children for what their parents did. We're a better country than that."

Polls show most American voters are conflicted in their own minds about illegal immigration.

Ms. Bowman at the American Enterprise Institute says, "Voters are of two minds about the immigration issue. They are very concerned about protecting our borders. At the same time, they don't want to be especially punitive. They believe that immigrants have added a lot to the country and that they work very hard and that they take jobs that a lot of Americans won't take."

Polls show the issues of national security and terrorism have receded somewhat since the 2004 presidential election -- when they were central to the campaign. Now, voters just have to decide which candidate best represents them on the issues they care about most.