As the battle lines are drawn for the upcoming mid-term elections, what will be the key issues – the emotional topics, the talking points that will matter to voters? Democrats seem to be hoping the focus will be on “income equity” – the idea that it’s not fair that some folks get paid more than others.

Republicans are hoping it will be honesty and morality – as they try to paint President Obama in the worst possible light, portraying him as a leader who promises a lot, but delivers little. They are also prepping for the 2016 presidential election, pushing the message that all Democrats are liars and crooks, that America’s left wing doesn’t care anything about truth or ethics or morality – as conservatives try to hang the albatross of Bill Clinton around Hillary’s neck.

Bill and Hillary (White House photo)

Bill and Hillary (White House photo)

But is that what voters really care about?

The two issues more likely to be in the forefront for 2014 are the weak economy and widespread disillusionment over Obamacare.

What about religious issues? “Freedom of religion is under threat around the world," President Obama warned at the recent National Prayer Breakfast.

Unfortunately, voters don’t seem all that concerned with international problems – even the persecution of Christians. Nor will they focus on the debt ceiling.“The budget and debt-limit fights have been set aside for the time being,” writes syndicated columnist Donald Lambro. Already forgotten are the battles over a debt-limit extension. A budget has been passed to keep the government running for the rest of this year.

“Suddenly, with two roll-call votes, the messy, multi-issue battles of the 2014 elections have been refocused on two central issues that will put the GOP back in charge of Congress,” says Lambro.

He forecasts the upcoming election will be “a clear referendum on the voters’ two foremost concerns:

  • a weak, jobless economy and
  • the “increasingly unpopular, dictatorial Obamacare law.”

“Democrats, who rarely if ever talk about either of these issues,” notes Lambro, “were hoping and praying that this year’s elections would remain muddy enough for them to save a number of their House and Senate seats from GOP takeovers.”

The economy will be the biggest election-year issue, agrees the Huffington Post’s Braden Goyette. He says unemployment has retaken its place in Americans’ minds as America’s biggest problem and cites a new Gallup poll which says 23 percent now consider joblessness the greatest challenge facing the nation. Only 16 percent thought so a month ago.

“More people named joblessness as the nation’s top problem than ‘government and politicians,’ which had been the most popular answer among survey respondents since the government shutdown last year,” writes Goyette. “Before the shutdown, jobs and the economy had topped the list.”

Only 63 percent of working-age Americans have a job or are actively looking for one – the lowest share of the population participating in the labor force since 1978. “And while the jobless rate fell last month,

the drop was due in large part to the long-term unemployed giving up on looking for work,” writes Goyette.

Obama campaign poster (National Archives)

Obama campaign poster (National Archives)

“Some of this is due to Baby Boomers retiring — but only some,” writes Mark Gongloff. “Most of it has to do with the fact that the economy is still too weak to create enough jobs to draw people into the market. This is most clearly evident in the fact that younger people are leaving the labor force, too – or never even entering it – because they can’t find jobs.”

So, “the focus returns full-bore to two major issues on which President Obama and the Democats are weakest among the general electorate,” writes Lambro. “The early signs suggest they will get creamed on both in the fall as the economy plunges into another slump and Obamacare lurches from one debacle after another.

“If anyone thinks for a moment that the White House is not worried about the political fallout of all of this, consider what the president did Tuesday. He abruptly handed midsized-business employers a politically driven reprieve from his health care law.