It's the Surplus, Stupid

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WASHINGTON: In full it's-the-economy-stupid mode, Bill Clinton stood soberly before a blinking "surplus clock" Wednesday and boasted shamelessly about leading the U.S. out of decline and into prosperity. The U.S. government, he announced, is officially in the black for the first time in 29 years, to the tune of some $70 billion. For this, Bill wants your gratitude, and odds are he's got it.

"With relentless self-promotion, Clinton has managed to put his face on this surplus, as well as on the economic boom," says TIME deputy Washington bureau chief Jef McAllister. "Despite what Republicans say, he'll probably get the credit." Early reports from the Hill also suggest that the face-off between Republican proposals for a broad income-tax cut and Clinton's mantra of "save Social Security first" is tipping in the President's favor. "If we squander this surplus," Clinton said Wednesday, "what are we going to do when times get tough?" Just keep talking about the economy, stupid.