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US Voters Talk About Issues in the 2008 Presidential Election

Several U.S. public opinions polls suggest there are more than a dozen top issues important to voters in the upcoming presidential election between the presumed candidates, Republican Senator John McCain and Democratic Senator Barack Obama. VOA asked voters across the country which issues will will be a factor in their vote for president in the November 4 election. VOA's Chris Simkins has the details.

Nearly every day, the two leading U.S. presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama address the issues. Each speaks of their plans for fixing problems that face the country. As the election draws near the economy has become the central issue.

Senator John McCain: "I have a plan to grow the economy, create more and better jobs and get America moving again."

Senator Barack Obama: "I will offer a middle class tax cut so we can lift up hard working families and give relief to struggling home owners."

The candidates know voters are concerned about nation's sluggish economy. Republican Michael Bailey is one of those voters. He owns a restaurant in Lewistown, Pennsylvania and has seen food prices soar this year. He says he will have to pass along those higher costs to his customers.

"We watched 50 pounds [about 23 kilograms] of flour go in successive weeks from 13 to 26 to 36 dollars for a sack of flour. So the prices have really jumped up. Everybody is really worried about how they are going to buy food," Bailey said.

Democratic voter Heather Suloff is a small business owner. She says people in this rural area drive a lot and are looking for relief at the gas pump. "Gas and oil prices need to come down," she said. "People cannot afford that. What about the people who have to drive far to work everyday and they cannot afford to?"

Pamela Scott, from [the southern U.S. state of] Alabama, supports Senator Barack Obama. She says he is the best candidate to address her concerns. "The economy is looking bad," Scott said. "People are losing their homes. Jobs and a lot of things are facing us as challenges, as Americans. We are all ready for a change."

In [the southern U.S. state of] West Virginia, Steve Miller owns a restaurant and hotel in the town of Franklin. He says his restaurant business has been hurt by higher fuel prices. "As the gas prices climb, and I am not being sarcastic, if they go up a dime [10 cents], I lose two or three regular customers," Smith said.

Larry Sabato, a political science professor at the University of Virginia, says the economy is dominating the presidential race. But he says other issues are likely to influence voters. "The second tier is composed of international issues mainly Iraq, secondarily Afghanistan and the overall war on terror," Sabato said. "Now having said that and it seems likely that those are the major issues, there are tertiary [third ranking] issues that matter: the environment, education."

Twenty-two year old Ian Gallagher is a university student. He is a Republican who supports Senator John McCain and says national security and fighting against terrorism are important to him. "National Security, defending us from those that want to destroy us -- I believe there are those people and the way to stop those is to be diligent, to follow them and track them down, but also to bring freedom and democracy that do not have it. And I want to see either president do that," Gallagher said.

Most public opinion surveys indicate the second issue behind the economy is the war in Iraq. Allison Bubb wants the next president to withdraw U.S. soldiers from Iraq. "I have family and friends that are over there and they shouldn't be over there," Bubb said.

Eighty-four year old Jeff Bowman owns a hardware store in Franklin, West Virginia. He is undecided about which candidate to support but wants to hear more about the issues from each of them. "Well of course the economy and then education. This democracy cannot work if the population is not educated," Brown said.

VOA talked to other voters who said the rising costs of health care, cleaning up the environment and stemming the flow of illegal immigration were important issues to them. Political analysts say, in the weeks leading to the presidential election, the candidates will be working overtime to convince votes they have the right solutions to the problems facing the country.