If you wanted to write the script for next year's election to ensure the closest possible result, you'd write it pretty much exactly as it's shaping up. If the economy remained persistently sluggish, the fiscal situation remained so awash in red ink, and things remained so bleak in Iraq, I think President Bush would have great difficulty getting reelected.
But it now seems clear that there is
new job growth in the economy --- as signaled by today's down-tick
in the unemployment rate to 6%. Growth in itself is comparatively insignificant in political terms. The key political metric is jobs. And there are signs of improvement there too.
(See this article
at CNN/Money to get a feel for how much job growth is necessary just to keep up with population growth and productivity gains. Says the CNN article: "Most economists believe payrolls need to grow by at least 150,000 jobs a month in order to keep up with the natural growth of the labor force and keep the unemployment rate down, and that is generally expected to happen only slowly in the next year.")
We've had a couple false-start recoveries in the last couple years. But it seems hard to figure that president Bush won't enter the home stretch of the campaign next year without at least an improving economy to point to. But how quickly will it come? Where will the pick-up be concentrated? And how will the economic news meld in voters' minds with what's happening abroad?