The Iraq war will remain an issue, but over the next few months the economy will overtake it as the voters' top concern. That's the prediction of Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee. "The economy is really alarming a lot of Americans," Dean told me in a year-end interview, noting that people are afraid of losing their jobs and their homes and are anxious about a possible recession. Dean said the party of the incumbent president usually pays a severe price if the economy goes bad. He pledged an aggressive campaign to create a "clear bright line" separating his candidate from the GOP presidential nominee. Of course, that's exactly what the Republican National Committee and its chairman, Mike Duncan, are planning, since they think that overall, the economy is a success story. Look for the parties to start their heavy hitting just as soon as the nominees are decided.