Donald Lambro

Obama, too, has carved out a leftist voting record in the Senate, but he has a philosophically broader (and in some ways more eclectic group) of economic advisers who are mostly trained economists drawn from major universities. Among them: Harvard economist David Cutler, who served on Clinton's White House council of economic advisers, and Austan Goolsbee, a University of Chicago economist who calls himself "a market centrist." Obama, Goolsbee said, despite his liberal voting record, "approaches issues with a respect for the way markets work.

"He has objectives you would expect a Democrat to have, but also market-based approaches to reach those Democratic goals. Every time I talk to him, he respects and understands that you must take the market into account," he told me.

That sensitivity for the markets could lead to some tax cuts, Goolsbee suggested.

"I don't want to scoop the policies he might reveal, but I would not be surprised if he were for tax cuts for various things, though mindful of the need for fiscal responsibility," he said.

Unlike many (if not most) of his rivals for the nomination, Obama seems a little more open to contrary views on economic policy, his advisers told me. Jeffrey Liebman, an economist at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, is a prime example of that. He is the co-author of a paper that lays out a bipartisan plan that builds on President Bush's idea of personal Social Security accounts that invest in stocks.

Obama opposed Bush's idea, "but that has not made him adverse to hearing other points of view. He talks to guys like Liebman," Goolsbee said. "He's very concerned about how we get the savings rate higher and has been exploring ways to do that."

Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, running on a far-left economic agenda, has made universal healthcare, more social-welfare spending for the poor and higher taxes to pay for it the focus of his candidacy. Robert Gordon and James Kvall, both former economic policy aides in the Clinton White House, are advising him.

Edwards is much more heavily trade protectionist and "balancing the budget would not be a top priority for him," Baker said.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.