Donald Lambro

It is one of the ironies of the 2006 elections that the electorate remains in a gloomy mood about the economy. Rarely can one find an election in the past where voters wanted to throw out the party in power with the unemployment rate nearing a low 4.5 percent, the economy growing by better than 3 percent, and worker retirement stock portfolios rising by near double-digit percentages.

That mood may be changing. The Gallup Poll last week said "Americans' basic assessment of the national economy continues to be more negative than positive" though "that appraisal turned a bit brighter in the past month."

Gallup's latest scorecard showed 41 percent of Americans rating the economy as excellent or good, 42 percent said "only fair" and 16 percent said poor. That survey, conducted Oct. 9-12, does not reflect the market's latest ascent on Mount Twelve Thousand.

But other measurements like the consumer confidence surveys show a significant rise among Americans who are more confident about the U.S. economy, both now and in the future.

Let's not forget another voting bloc in the electorate: the fast-growing investor class and especially workers investing in 401(k) stock pension plans. Americans who now own stock -- 63 percent of the adult population -- cut across all the political lines, and for those who say the economy is a paramount issue in how they'll vote, their portfolios will no doubt make them feel better about the country's direction.

At the same time, I have no doubt that Iraq and the U.S. casualties there could and very likely will trump the economy's performance among voters for whom the war is the pivotal issue in this election.

Meantime, there is also no doubt in my mind that the Bush economy is going to continue to outperform the pessimists who are always seeing an economic collapse in the next quarter.

The burgeoning investor class will be a big part of this future growth -- especially the new workers who will be automatically enrolled in company 401(k) stock purchase plans as a result of the pension reforms passed this year by the same Congress that voters say they hate.

The global free market, free trade economy is on a roll, including many once-economic-backwaters in Eastern Europe and Asia, and American businesses like Wal-Mart, Boeing, Google and GM and their workers are going to benefit from that growth.

That's why Gallup reports that 54 percent of Americans now say this is a good time to invest in the stock market. Go USA!

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.