Focus Point - The Economy, Stupid

Commentary by Pete du Pont

I'm Pete du Pont with the National Center for Policy Analysis. Is presidential politics really reduceable to "it's the economy, stupid?" Conventional wisdom says yes, and that a good economy helps Al Gore while a bad one hurts him.

But History says sitting vice presidents, as opposed to presidents, aren't affected much one way or the other.

Richard Nixon may have suffered from a sluggish economy when he lost in 1960, but when he beat Humphrey eight years later the sitting veep was coasting on conditions Gore could only long for. In 1988, George Bush had decent but far from outstanding conditions, with growth falling in the third quarter; yet he easily beat Dukakis.

This year? Well, if a recession began, no one would notice before November; and unemployment lags even farther after that. So it wouldn't hurt Gore. But a booming market could help Bush, making his Social Security Investment Plan more appealing.

There's a lot more to an election than the economy.

Those are my ideas, and at the NCPA we know ideas can change the world. I'm Pete du Pont. Next time, missile defense.