With an uptick in his approval rating to 56 percent -- higher than Reagan at this point in his presidency -- George W. Bush seems to have weathered his summer squall and to be well-positioned to do what his father failed to do: Win a second term.
The resurgence in the president's ratings appears due to two factors: the California recall election that riveted the nation and in which the face of the Democratic Party was that of Gray Davis, and of the GOP that of Arnold. Second, the bull market, with the Dow nearing 10,000 again.
If Wall Street remains the lead indicator it has usually been -- a predictor of what is to come in the economy six to 12 months out -- Bush could be presiding over good times in 2004.
Moreover, with the dollar sinking, aiding U.S. exports, with most Bush tax cuts taking effect before November '04, with Alan Greenspan gunning the money supply and with a $550 billion deficit pumping out cash, the economy has all the steroids it needs for an Olympic performance in 2004.
Then there is Iraq, about which a consensus seems to be emerging. Those who opposed the war do not want to cut and run and leave Iraq to chaos and civil war. Those who supported the war do not want to stay on forever and fight an Iraqi intifada.
The consensus appears to be this: America will not send fresh new divisions to fight a five- or 10-year war. Iraq will be helped onto its feet and power transferred as soon as possible, so Iraqis themselves can take responsibility for their own independence. And then, the Americans go home.
But if the United States is losing half a dozen soldiers a week with scores wounded in October of next year, and Bush comes back to Congress for another $87 billion, "Bush's War" will be the issue of 2004. Especially with the Democratic nominee likely to be Howard Dean of Vermont.
Here is another reason to bet on Bush. Though badly cut up by rivals over the summer, Dean still runs ahead of Rep. Gephardt in Iowa and of Sen. Kerry in New Hampshire, with summer sensation Gen. Wesley Clark trailing badly in both states. And we are only three months away from the voting.
During the summer, Gephardt failed to win the endorsement of the AFL-CIO. Clark has had problems both with message and organization, and was beaten up in the last debate. And Kerry just got some very bad news from a Granite State Poll.