01/31/2008 - The first hour of Wednesday's Republican presidential debate, the last before Super Tuesday on Feb. 5, was dominated by talk of the economy. Perhaps in recognition of the debate's venue in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, moderator Anderson Cooper invoked the former president during the first question of the night, repeating Reagan's own famous debate question, "Are Americans better off than they were eight years ago?"
While the two current front-runners for the GOP nomination, Arizona Sen. John McCain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, admitted that there were problems with the economy, neither would endorse the idea that American was worse off economically after eight years of the Bush administration.
"[T]his president did pull us out of a deep recession. He put in place two tax cuts, which did get the -- your country out of a recession and helped rebuild the country," said Romney.
"I think we are better off overall, if you look at the entire eight-year period, when you look at the millions of jobs that have been created, the improvement in the economy, et cetera," said McCain.
While there is a sizable partisan gap in ratings of the national economy, even among Republicans fewer than half view economic conditions with favor. Currently, 46% of Republicans, and just 24% of independents and 15% of Democrats, give the economy at least a good rating.
Read the full report GOP Debate's Economic Focus Mirrors Country's Growing Concern on the Pew Research Center Web site.