WASHINGTON: President Clinton was like a proud papa Friday on the White House lawn, and why not? The last bright bit of his presidency -- the economy, stupid -- was doing just fine, thank you. According to the Commerce Department, the U.S. GDP grew 3.3 percent in the July-September quarter. It's no boom, but it was no bust either, and Wall Street lunged at the bait: The Dow was up 150 points before closing with a modest 97-point gain.
"Optimism seems to be creeping back in," says Money magazine writer Pablo Galarza. "People have been expecting bad news, more signs of a recession, but it's not happening yet." The GDP numbers are only preliminary, and the news wasn't all good; exports fell and imports rose, adding to the ballooning trade deficit. But robust consumer spending continues to ride to Clinton's rescue. "To keep it going we must stay with the strategy that created the conditions of this enduring economic expansion," he crowed. Suddenly, the midterm elections can't come too soon.