Sunday, March 4, 2007

Bush and the Bottom

By almost any measure, President Bush's polling numbers are at historic lows. Real Clear Politics, which 'creates' its own poll by averaging the most recent published results, currently has Mr. Bush at an approval rating of 34.3%, based on polls measuring the period Feb 21 to March 1.

But with the (seemingly temporary) meltdown in world markets last Tuesday, and with the recent revision of Commerce Department figures indicating that growth in the fourth quarter was significantly slower than first reported, it begs the question of what the polling numbers would look like if the U.S. entered a recession, or worse.

To be sure, not many are predicting a recession. However, Alan Greenspan hinted at one on Monday (although he was apparently less alarmist than headline-writers such as those of the Associated Press, who wrote "Greenspan Warns of Likely U.S. Recession"), and even BusinessWeek admits that the next few weeks could "be a contest between recession-spooked worriers and stockpickers with visions of high-priced buyouts." Moreover, as Barron's Alan Abelson wrote:
The almost universal conviction is that Tuesday's plunge was not the start of a full-fledged bear market. Even the savviest sage we know, who has been unequivocally skeptical for a spell now, thinks the odds are against it being the start of a bear market. He reckons there's one more big move up likely and, after that, perhaps a few month hence, stock prices will begin their journey to the nether depths.

Perhaps. But we wonder. That virtually everyone agrees that Tuesday wasn't the start of a bear market strikes us as more than reason enough to suspect it just might be.

Courtesy:Bigpicture, as Barron's is Sub. Req.

(It should also be noted that a bear market does not equal a recession, as Prof. Paul Samuelson noted: "Wall Street indices predicted nine out of the last five recessions.")

As Mr. Bush's father famously knows, the American people tend to blame their president for recessions; but at 34%, how much more "blame" can Bush 43 be expected to withstand? And more ominously, what would further-reduced approval ratings do to Mr. Bush's standing both at home and abroad?

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