Sluggish Economy May Not Hurt GOP In November, Economist Says

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:29 PM EDT

( - At least one conservative economist doesn't think the weakened economy will hurt Republican prospects during the upcoming November election. The prediction comes as more bad economic news came out in Washington Friday.

The Labor Department Friday said worker productivity grew at an annual rate of 1.1 percent in the second quarter, which was slightly weaker than the 1.5 percent pace many economic analysts were forecasting.

The department said the slowdown in second-quarter productivity came as output grew at a rate of just 0.5 percent and businesses cut workers' hours at a rate of 0.7 percent.

Economist Jim Miller of Citizens for a Sound Economy believes that while the news now might not be good for Republicans, it won't hurt them in November.

"I think it's a mixed bag. On the whole it's not good news for Republicans. It seems clear that the Democrats are going to play this business of corporate greed and try to attach it to the Republicans," said Miller in an interview with .

"Generally, when the economy is not doing well, that's not good for the incumbent party and the perception is the Republicans are the incumbent party. On the other hand, you have to look at those polls. A lot of people are blaming (former) President Clinton more than President Bush for the economy's problems," he said.

Conceding that the poll numbers could change, Miller said, "on the other hand whatever effects or the perceptions of the bad economy may have on the general election, it probably won't hit Republicans particularly badly. It will probably hurt incumbents, but right now in the Senate and the House you have an equal number of each. So, it probably will not deferentially affect Republicans all that greatly.

"I don't think the economy is particularly robust. It is recovering okay," Miller concluded.

But Robert Kuttner, an economist and co-editor of The American Prospect magazine, predicted the economy will hurt the Republicans as well as President Bush in the November elections.

"I think it depends where the economy is. If the stock market keeps being weak and that spills over into ordinary people being anxious, that has to hurt the incumbent party. It always does," he said in an interview with .

"Unless you think the stock market is going to do a miracle turnaround or unless you think the economy is somehow going to bounce back, I think it will probably hurt the Republicans' chances," said Kuttner.

He also said Democrats have a good "corporate greed" issue to use against the Republicans.

"Bush himself personifies some of the scandals in the way that he made his money in the Harken energy story and so does [Vice President Dick] Cheney. They are a very attractive target for Democrats and the fact that the Sarbanes bill was a Democrat remedy that was only embraced by Republicans late in the game makes all of this stuff a good issue for Democrats," said Kuttner.

Bush has taken heat from Democrats over his sale of stock in Harken Energy Corporation two months before the company posted larger than expected losses. They also criticize Cheney's tenure as chairman at Halliburton, a company the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating for cost overruns.

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