Political analyst Charlie Cook makes a good point:
It could be that American politics has such a narrow focus that a war in Iraq, a presidential election, the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran, and the normal flow of legislation [don't] leave much room for other topics of conversation. Or it could be that candidates and elected officials fear that if they raise a problem, they will be expected to suggest a solution, which they are not prepared to provide yet.... It's hard to say exactly why this disconnect exists, but there is little doubt that it does. When voters tell pollsters they are worried about the economy, jobs and where the country is headed, they are usually not addressing specific concerns as much as a broader unease about America's place in the worldwide economy. They worry about long-term prospects for quality jobs rather than a fear of what might happen in the next six months.
My take: If gas prices are sitting at $4 a gallon and home prices are still tumbling come next November, you can be sure the economy will be the major issue—unless cruise missiles are peppering Iran. There is also the possibility that we will be in the middle of an economic reacceleration. But as in 1988, voters may not notice.