For voters, it’s still the economy — but different

It was a Democratic tactician who once offered this now timeless piece of political strategy: “It’s the economy, stupid.” Twenty-four years later, and with a different Clinton poised to receive the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in the week ahead, the economy remains the singular issue Americans agree is the most important.

Yes, terrorism, health care and guns also appear on the “very important” list of issues for Americans, according to the Pew Research Center and others. But it is the economy that reigns supreme for voters, almost always has.

It’s an uncomfortable and confusing time for the economy and politicians. Job growth has been okay, not spectacular. Income growth has been mostly stagnant. But energy prices have fallen, helping consumers, and interest rates remain near record lows, helping borrowers. The national debt has ballooned; a wave of nationalism has knocked globalization and government gridlock seems more intractable than ever.

The Republicans met in the past week and the Democrats meet in the week to come as the S&P 500 stock index is at record highs. That’s good news for the roughly half of American households owning stock (or mutual funds). But the stock highs come as Corporate America is seeing profits fall compared to a year earlier.

As Democrats meet for their convention in Philadelphia and officially nominate Hillary Clinton for president, investors and voters likely will be reminded “it’s the economy.” It’s a vastly different and more complex economy than the last time a Clinton was nominated to run for president.