NEW YORK -- It's no longer the economy, stupid.
The catch phrase that defined the presidential campaign in 1992 -- Bill Clinton's first -- has been rendered nearly obsolete by the longest economic expansion in history. Heading into the 2000 campaign, falling unemployment and other signs of strength have relegated worries about the economy to the back of voters' minds. And the stock market, despite its uneven performance this year, does not look like it will become an issue -- not at this point, at least.
In recent weeks, some evidence of an economic slowdown has emerged. But this year's presidential candidates are taking the economy in stride.
''The economy likely will not be a defining issue in this race,'' said Kim N. Wallace, political analyst at Lehman Brothers Inc. in Washington.
Why? Despite scattered signs of a slowdown, ''the overarching message we see is that the economy is strong,'' Wallace said. ''It will be difficult to find a voter who will tell you that they're worse off than they were four years ago.''
That probably prevents George W. Bush from using the economy as a campaign issue, analysts said. Yet Vice President Al Gore may also leave the economy untouched. With the economy just beginning to give mixed signals, Gore may be less willing to take credit for the Clinton administration's role in the long-lived boom, for fear that it will end abruptly.
''That's unfortunate for the vice president,'' Wallace said. ''In another year, the candidate from the incumbent party could take a great deal of credit.''
But Wallace said that once the Democrats and Republicans hold their conventions and Gore and Bush begin debating, the economy may become a more pressing campaign issue.
And if the stock market resumes its slide of earlier this year, the candidates will be forced to address concerns of an electorate that's hooked on investing, he added.
''Given the fact that we have half of all U.S. households with money in the market, it could become a factor,'' Wallace said. ''The market's performance does merit watching, although it's probably too soon to tell.''
Instead of broad economic themes, voters this year may focus on smaller business issues, analysts said. Among them: Microsoft, which is battling a federal judge's ruling that it violated antitrust rules.
The judge, Thomas Penfield Jackson, was appointed by President Reagan in 1980. But critics of the government's ruling will forever tie the case to the Democratic party, analysts said.
''Republicans have historically been the pro-business party,'' said Anthony Chan, managing director and chief economist for Banc One Advisors in Columbus, Ohio. ''So the tea leaves may indicate that the Justice Department would be a little friendlier to Microsoft with Bush in the White House.''
''Among registered voters who are in favor of Microsoft, Bush probably has some edge. It is not his party taking the company to court,'' he said.
Analysts say Gore and Bush could also spar over health care, regulation of technology and the budget surplus. But there's at least one business issue on which both candidates are united: the tenure of Alan Greenspan, the true architect of the economy's growth spurt.
The Fed chairman was sworn in last month for his fourth four-year term, and while he hasn't signaled that he'll stay for a fifth, Bush and Gore have been united in their praise.
''They believe in Alan Greenspan,'' Wallace said. ''They have been paying homage to a man who has made monetary policy an art and a science.''
The candidates were undoubtedly thrilled by Greenspan's decision to stay on, Chan said.
''It's in the best interest of both political parties to keep Alan Greenspan around,'' he said. ''Any politician, whether a Democrat or a Republican, would be foolish to push him out.''
This past week, stocks waffled among continuing nervousness over earnings and interest rates, but got a big boost Friday from a positive employment report.
The Dow Jones industrials ended the week with a gain of 188.09 after rising 154.51 Friday to close at 10,635.98.
The Nasdaq composite index rose 57.09 during the week after advancing 62.63 Friday to 4,023.20. The Standard & Poor's 500 index picked up 24.30 for the week, rising 22.23 Friday to 1,478.90.
The Russell 2000 index rose 10.99 for the week, gaining 4.90 to close at 528.22.
The Wilshire Associates Equity Index -- which represents the combined market value of all New York Stock Exchange, American Stock Exchange and Nasdaq issues -- ended the week at $13.849 trillion, up $230.68 billion from the previous week. A year ago, the index stood at $12.838 trillion.
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