NYT Finally Asks: Why Isn't the GOP Benefiting from the Strong Economy?

Eduardo Porter dominates the front of Tuesday's Business section with "This Time, It's Not the Economy," which poses the somewhat rhetorical question: Whyaren't Bush and Republicansgetting credit for the strong economy?

Unlike most Times stories on the economy, Porter's demonstrates its strength: "In many ways, the economy has not looked so good in a long time.

"The price of gas at the pump has tumbled since midsummer. Unemployment has fallen to its lowest level in more than five years. On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average has finally returned to its glory days of the late 1990's, setting records almost daily.

"President Bush, in hopes of winning credit for his party's stewardship of the economy, is spending two days this week campaigning on the theme that the economy is purring. 'No question that a strong economy is going to help our candidates,' Mr. Bush said in a CNBC interview yesterday, 'primarily because they have got something to run on, they can say our economy's good because I voted for tax relief.'

"But Republican candidates do not seem to be getting any traction from the glowing economic statistics with midterm elections just two weeks away."

Porter modestly fails to mention how media coverage could be playing a factor in the public's failure to credit Bush - coverage which would encompass stories like this front-page story by the Times' Vikas Bajaj, which went to ludicrous lengths to find potential weaknesses in the strong economy. Or this one by Edmund Andrews, which positedlast May's 4.6% unemployment rate last with this downer of a lead: "Job creation slowed to a crawl."

Back on September 12, 2004, Porter denied that business reporters have even been accused of liberal bias, much less exhibit it: "Although many news-media watchdogs take business reporters to task for biases, few say the problem stems from a political slant."

Today Porter finds other reasons: "But Republicans' inability to harness an improving economy in their political favor appears mostly to be a function of the weight of other big national issues stacked against them. Prime among them are voters' growing concerns about the costs of the war in Iraq, fed by a stream of American casualties displayed every night on television.

"The seeming morass in Iraq has hurt Republicans in more ways than one, analysts say, contributing to the notion that the country is heading in the wrong direction and fueling distrust in the administration of President Bush that has leaked out to other fronts - including his management of the economy."