WASHINGTON - Why is it that many of the Republican presidential contenders are dodging issues the voters say are among their highest concerns?
Go to the Gallup Poll's website that lists the issues that trouble Americans most and you'll find the economy and jobs are far and away the "most important problems" they face, according to the pollster's recent surveys.
I know why the nightly news shows don't deal with this, because for a very long time now they've been trying to convince us that the Obama economy is doing fine and people are doing better. It isn't and they aren't.
Republicans should be relentlessly pounding this issue with all they've got. Not only the GOP candidates but rank and file leaders in Congress, each and every week. I'm not hearing or seeing them do that.
Fully one third of Americans tell Gallup that "economic problems" are their chief worry, whether its the "economy in general", unemployment and jobs, the "gap between rich and poor," "lack of money," flat wages, taxes, the cost of living, and the federal deficit and debt that undermines economic growth.
Among non-economic problems, "dissatisfaction with government" comes in a strong second -- mentioned by 18 percent of Americans.
Everything else falls into the low single digits: including crime, religion, morals, gay rights, terrorism, foreign aid or illegal immigration.
The conservative candidates running or planning to run deal with "big government," promising to slash spending and abolish federal programs. But with few exceptions, their promises lack specifics or any indication they have the skills to get a serious budget-cutting plan through the obstacle course in Congress.
I don't mean that all GOP candidates aren't making the economy an important part of their campaigns, but most aren't turning it into the overwhelming issue that will likely decide the outcome of the 2016 election.
Talking about "liberty," "freedom" and the Constitution are fine and deserve their rightful place in the conversation about where are country is headed. But it doesn't address the bread-and-butter issues that Americans are worrying most about.
I'm all for expanding liberty and getting the government off our backs and out of our wallets. But I want to hear how they're going to create more full-time jobs that pay a living wage; how they're going to accelerate economic growth; how they're going to unlock needed capital investment, the mother's milk of business expansion.The time for the Republicans to deal with this issue with both guns blazing was April 3 when the Labor Department announced that job growth slowed to a crawl in March.
In a labor force of nearly 160 million people, employers hired only 126,000 workers, and previous monthly job data estimates were revised downward significantly.
Hourly wages rose a meager 0.3 percent, but the hours worked fell slightly so incomes remained essentially flat.
"Millions of Americans who have been too discouraged to look for work because of weakness in the labor market largely remained on the sidelines," the New York Times reported. And the labor force participation rate (those who have jobs or those actively looking for one) shrank to 62 percent.
Why aren't Republicans hammering the Democrats on these and other job figures showing the sluggish Obama economy is weakening further, hurting the people they say they want to help most at the bottom of the income scale.
Black unemployment has risen under his policies over the past six years and presently stands at 11 percent. The jobless rate in "black communities is at a crisis level," says economist Valerie Wilson at the liberal Economic Policy Institute.
Long-term unemployment remains a persistent problem for older workers, too. The AARP Policy Institute released a study earlier this month that said on average 45 percent of job seekers age 55 and up were jobless for 27 weeks or more last year.
These are among the harsh economic realities of Barack Obama's failed presidency. But if the Republicans do not begin to pound them into the political consciousness of the American electorate, who will?
The television news networks? Forget it. CBS, NBC and ABC and their highly paid anchors won't touch the issue.
There are growing indications, however, that the voters increasing focus on looming economic troubles, and other issues, could be hurting Hillary Clinton in her unimpeded march toward the Democratic presidential nomination.
"Not only is this Clinton's weakest favorable rating in the past year, but it is the lowest since 2008 when she was competing in that year's Democratic primary elections," says Gallup polling analyst Lydia Saad.
Certainly a driving factor in Clinton's declining polls is last month's controversy over her secret use of a private e-mail server for all official business as secretary of State -- instead of the department's system which could eventually be open to public scrutiny.
Worse, it was revealed she erased everything from her account except what she alone deemed official e-mails. That raised suspicions she had destroyed documents that could be relevant to the congressional investigation into her bungled handling of the deadly terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
Gallup's April 3-4 poll showed that her favorability rating among independents plunged from 56 percent a year ago to 43 percent. And from 87 percent to 79 percent among Democrats and voters who lean Democratic.
Notably, 38 percent of Democrats, including leaners, say they would prefer "someone else" as their nominee.
Clinton has yet to level any criticism of Obama's inept economic policies, and indeed supported them during her four years in his administration -- making her eminently beatable on this issue.
The Republican who makes the economy and jobs his paramount issues, and ties her to Obama's failed policies, will be our next president.