- - Sunday, September 9, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Summer isn’t what it used to be. Almost nothing is. But with the dying of the happiest season we return refreshed to the demands of job, family and community. Labor Day has come and gone and Americans are stepping back into the harness of duty. The advent of autumn kicks off the midterm election season, and with that comes forecasts, if not actual answers to how the national mood will determine success for Republican and Democrat.

A Fox News poll last month asked respondents to pick the most important issue to them and the economy and health care were tied at 18 percent each. The stock market is always subject to bumps and bruises but is turning in an all-star performance in the early months of Donald Trump’s presidency. The economy created 201,000 new jobs in August, with the fastest growth in worker pay since the end of the recession, and maintaining the unemployment rate at 2.9 percent. One economist calls it “an economy on fire,” with broad strength that is showing no sign of slowing down.

U.S. investors have seen a surge of more than 30 percent in the Dow Jones Industrial average since Election Day 2016, and the news of a tentative sealing of a deal with Mexico to replace NAFTA adds a fresh shot of adrenaline. The president’s critics are left only to say that “the surging economy won’t last.” They’re no doubt correct. Nothing ever does. What goes up must come down, and more rain will make the creek rise. But until then it’s fabulous news.

The president’s strategy of strong-arming traditional trade partners to the north and south with deals they dare not refuse is working, so far. The strategy has given the 54 percent of U.S. households invested in the market a reason to cheer and has driven the consumer confidence index to a 17-year high.

Who could have imagined that despite his harsh rhetoric about Mexico stealing American jobs and dumping its unwanted huddled masses and its drugs north of the border, Mr. Trump would have successfully bromanced President Enrique Pena Nieto with a new trade pact benefiting both nations? Canada has pouted on the sidelines, expecting to watch the Donald flop and return hat in hand to Ottawa with a promise to behave. With the U.S.-Mexico deal done, Canadian trade representatives have instead beaten the path to Washington. The Trump art of the deal may abandon polite custom, but the results speak for themselves.

The U.S. economy chalked up a second-quarter gross domestic product growth rate of 4.2 percent, a number not seen in years. Based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s report of new home sales and cost, the Atlanta Federal Reserve has raised its forecast of third-quarter growth in gross domestic product to 4.6 percent. Blue-ribbon business performance is showing up in public attitudes. A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that Americans think Republicans do a better job than Democrats handling the economy, and by a 43 to 29 percent margin.

Republicans heard even more encouraging news in the Rasmussen generic poll of likely voters which put them dead even with Democrats in the race to November, 44 percent to 44 percent. That was before Mr. Trump’s “hell week,” when former Trump associates Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen were measured for prison stripes (and before a bad week for Democrats trying to destroy the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh for the U.S. Supreme Court, and failing spectacularly).

This president bats away troubles that would destroy other men. “I’ve always had controversy in my life and I’ve always succeeded,” says he. “I’ve always won. I’ve always won.” That hardly means he always will, but he isn’t likely to change anything yet. He trained his sights on special congressional elections, and his endorsements have carried the day for nearly every candidate. He vows to build on that by devoting 60 days between now and November crisscrossing the nation in support of Republicans congressional candidates.

The theme of Election 2018 is Trump versus anti-Trump, irresistible force meeting immovable object. If Americans carry their economic optimism into the voting booth, the “blue wave” the Democrats confidently expected will merely beat against the shore, just as it always does. It’s too soon to assess effect, but if it really is “the economy, Stupid,” voters (including Stupid) with more money in their pockets may not be in a mood to change a good thing.

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