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Middle East could be hot-button issue for voters

Supporters bow their heads as Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney holds a moment of silence for the embassy officials killed in Libya, as he campaigns in the rain at Lake Erie College in Painesville, Ohio, Friday, Sept. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

PHOENIX -- Conservative strategist Stan Barnes said the economy remains the most important issue for voters but tensions in the Middle East have become the hot- button issue and it will carry until the November election.

"It's going to impact the presidential debates, voter turnout, and ultimately the issue will decide who the President of the United States will be," said Barnes, of Phoenix.

Strategist Mike O'Neil said most voters have locked in their choice for president and the developments in the Middle East will have little impact on the election.

"People have really made up their minds," said O'Neil, of Tempe. "There's five to seven percent who will say they haven't made up their minds. I'm convinced most of them won't be voting."

Barnes said he believes the president could lose Jewish voters in states like Florida.

"When the leader of Israel is practically begging the United States for help on the world stage, this causes doubts among key voting constituencies."

O'Neil said Republicans focused on the economy like a laser with limited success.

"It didn't work. They're still stuck three-plus points behind. And so [using Middle East tensions] seems to be part of a kitchen sink strategy. Let's try everything and see what sticks."

The first presidential debate is 14 days from Wednesday in Denver.

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About the Author


Position: Senior News Reporter. Started with KTAR July 4, 1999.

Favorite spots in Arizona: Pinetop-Lakeside, Alpine, Greer.

Have covered some of the biggest stories in Arizona including nine of the top 10 largest wildfires in state history. The Wallow Fire in 2011 became the largest fire in state history. Rodeo-Chediski Fire in June 2002, which is the second largest fire in Arizona. Covered the Yarnell Hill Tragedy in June 2013 that left 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots dead.

Favorite movies: True Grit, both 1969 John Wayne classic and the remake with Jeff Bridges and Lonesome Dove.

Sports Teams: Washington State University Cougars, Texas Longhorns, The University of Montana Grizzlies.

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