According to preliminary Commerce Department figures, GDP rose by an annual rate of 2.7 per cent in the July-September period, almost double the anaemic 1.5 per cent registered in the previous quarter. The improvement, the fourth best quarterly performance since Mr Bush took office, means that the economy has at last made good the losses of the 1990-1991 recession.
Campaigning in Iowa, the President seized on the news to lambast his Democratic opponent, Bill Clinton, whom the latest polls show leading by 11 points, less than a week before voting on Tuesday. 'The only way Clinton-Gore can win is to convince people we're in deep recession . . . but they're wrong.'
In fact other indicators, notably a gloomy report on consumer confidence from the Conference Board research group yesterday, suggest that any loud cheering is premature. 'This recovery is still far weaker than those after previous recessions,' said one economist. Most political observers moreover believe the upturn has come too late to have great impact in the campaign.
Last night the latest poll for CNN gave Mr Clinton 42 per cent support and Mr Bush 31 per cent, with 20 per cent for Ross Perot, the independent.
But on the stump Mr Bush is displaying an unmistakable new zest. In a commanding performance in Des Moines, he professed himself 'absolutely confident of re-election', and kept up his assault on his opponent's character.
Mr Clinton, meanwhile, was on a swing through Florida and Texas - two key states that he has a chance of wresting from the Republicans.
Mr Perot is trying to get his effort back on track after the furore over his charges that Republican 'dirty tricks' had forced him out of the race last July.
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