Used boots fetch $3 and old salt-and-pepper shakers bring in a buck at a makeshift flea market along Highway 27, presumably not what President Bush and Republicans have in mind when they herald a vibrant economy.

Times are "very good for the rich and very, very bad for the poor" who "can’t afford to live," laments Larry Mitchell, 43, a now-and-then merchant peddling his wares recently in a submarine sandwich shop parking lot. He says the middle class is "having a hard time."

In the Ohio River Valley, where people decry high gas prices, stagnant wages, lost jobs and factory closures, many don’t buy the claim that the economy is humming along.

Seven weeks before the midterm elections, the gulf between Bush’s perceptions and that of voters form the political backdrop across the country as well as in a region with several competitive House races. This area typically gets left out of national boom times and usually feels the pinch more than others during slowdowns.

Here and elsewhere differing views on the economy could hurt the GOP’s efforts to retain control of the House and Senate this fall, and give voters reason to put Democrats in charge instead.


In Washington, the economist in chief encourages GOP candidates to embrace the economy as a stellar accomplishment. "I’d say ‘Look at what the economy has done. It’s strong. We’ve created a lot of jobs,’" Bush said recently.

So, Republicans hit the campaign trial with a rallying cry that 5.7 million jobs have been created since August 2003. They cast Democrats as tax-raisers who would bring economic gloom and doom.

"President Bush and the Republicans are out of touch with Americans who are living paycheck to paycheck and are struggling to make ends meet," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., counters.

Her rank-and-file portrays an economy under Republicans that leaves behind the poor and hinders the middle class. Democrats also complain about a soaring federal deficit and Bush’s tax cuts "for the wealthy" during wartime.

Nationally, the economy grew strongly at the beginning of this year but it has slowed, reflecting the toll of high energy prices and two-plus years of interest-rate pain from the Federal Reserve. Gasoline and other energy prices now are falling and the Fed is expected to stay on the sidelines for a while after halting its rate-raising campaign last month.

Economic growth through the rest of the year is expected to stay relatively subdued. However, most economists don’t believe the economy is in danger of falling into recession.

Hiring, which has been uneven this year, picked up in August, pulling the nation’s unemployment rate down to 4.7 percent. At the same time, wages are rising. However, inflation has taken a bite out of workers’ paychecks and put the squeeze on some family budgets.

The mixed picture could have consequences for Republicans who control Congress.

"They could very well be held accountable on the economic front," said Robert Shapiro, a public opinion expert at Columbia University in New York.

A recent Associated Press-Ipsos poll found that Democrats have a 22-point edge among likely voters who care deeply about the economy, with 57 percent saying they’re more likely to vote for Democrats and 35 percent indicating they probably would lean Republican.

It’s also possible that the country’s economic vitality may not be much — if any — consequence to the political party in power.

In the poll, more likely voters ranked the situation in Iraq and terrorism as "extremely important" to them personally than the economy. And, an AP analysis found that while most likely voters rated it an important issue, the economy isn’t driving their vote in November.

A dozen years ago, when Republicans came into power in Congress, health care and crime were more important to voters than the economy. Exit polls from 1994 show that 22 percent of voters picked the economy as their most important issue, compared to health care, 30 percent, and crime, 25 percent.

This campaign season, Bush has been championing his economic policies but public sentiment over his job performance on the economy remains sour.

Only 40 percent of likely voters in an AP-Ipsos poll conducted last week said they approve of how he’s handled the economy.


Economic strength is a perpetual concern in the factory-and-farmland Ohio River Valley that mainly encompasses parts of West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, four states that all saw their unemployment rates rise from June to July.

Kentucky’s was 6.3 percent, Ohio’s was 5.8 percent, Indiana’s came in at 5.7 percent and West Virginia’s at 5.4 percent — all higher than the national average.

Voters in these states and others wince at suggestions of a robust economy.

"It’s just scary," said June Meredith, 49, a self-employed caterer, as she passed along talk of business closures at the Cake Ladies Dream Shoppe along a not-quite-bustling road in New Albany, Ind.

In this region full of commuters, voters bemoan the "trickle down" effect of high gas prices — even though they had dipped from $3 a gallon to $2.61 in Lexington, Ky., one recent week.

"Everything from a loaf of bread to a pair of shoes," seems to cost more, said Ronald Barrett, 70, a Democrat supervising a group doing community service on Scottsburg’s quaint town square in Indiana.

At a nearby diner, waitress Jeanine Gordon, 32, who makes the minimum wage, mused about her latest trouble — her van has been in the shop for a week because she and her husband can’t afford to fix it.

"This is the least I’ve ever made in my entire life," the Republican and mother of three said. "The gas prices went up and the tips went down."

In Butler, Ky., business could be better at Thaxton’s Canoe Trails and Paddler’s Inn, where a six-mile trip on the Licking River costs $15.95 per person and a one-night "cozy cabin" stay for two goes for $59.99.

"People don’t want to spend money, and the ones that do want to spend money do it sparingly," said Glen Thaxton, 25, a ponytailed Republican who voted for Democrat John Kerry in 2004. He took over the family business recently, and says he hopes to boost business.

To the south, in New Castle, Ky., Debbie Brewer, 50 and a deli owner, rattled off her biggest complaints about the economy as she counted change while closing her register for the night.

"We’ll never see 99 cents again," the Republican said of gas prices. "Everything’s jumping — your gas, your food and everything — but your wages don’t go up."

After a moment, she cracked a smile and chuckled: "I sound like a Democrat!"

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press


  1. Karen-
    I request that you start acting your age and not your IQ.

    Clearly, you Cant Understand Normal Thinking.

    With a capitol C and a U and an N, and a T.

    Have a nice day and a pleasant tomorrow.

  2. Ted….perhaps I mistook you for a GW lover by the idiotic rantings I have read from you.

    Grounded in reality – unfortunately so. Related to – by my spiritual belief system even you.

    How about takin’ it to the streets Ted? You ready to organize grassroot anti-war, anti-Bush, anti-watching our jobs go to foreign countries, etc. protests, marches, etc? Perhaps if you were, you wouldn’t need a horse1

    Firing a gun from a horse or Harley………….hmmmmmmmmmm that is something I haven’t tried so can’t give you an answer on it. If/when I have the chance (and I would be illegally posessing a fire arm having a criminal/FBI record), I’ll let you know how accurate I can be. Are you volunteering for target practice?

    I can discern a jack ass (no offense to the mules of the world) from a horse, elk, deer, moose, yak, or any other of the larger 4 legged animals on the planet. What worries me is how many times have you been dropped on your head?!?

    You throw out cheap shots every time you get a chance to rather than substantially answering me or anyone else. You must think you are amusing others but I suspect the crowd is a crowd of one – you Ted and only you.

    Perhaps you are the one needing to grasp reality and take a good look around you. Or perhaps you will be the one who wants to be first in the “we be going to the concentration camps” line. The government will definitely pick you up to get one more simple piece of stupidity off the streets – get your tooth brush ready – you are on latrine duty.

    If you are so “in tune” with what’s going on in this country and around the world, I hope you have prepared a retreat for you and (shudders to think that you may have offspring) family and friends.

    Keep adding nails to your coffin because Pei Mei hopefully taught you the 5 fingered exploding palm trick ol’ Beatrix used to knock off the infamous Bill.

    Rant on, Ted. Rant on. Straight jackets shouldn’t be that uncomfortable on you. And you might even be able to choose one of those designer colors.

  3. bastard gerge w bush do you know that the followers of beloved Usama Bin Laden And Islam are spreaded all over the world . dear bastard shame on you , you blamed Usama for terrorism in this world and ihave proofs that will show you as the worst criminal in this world . some followers of Usama are around you some where. you are a son of a fucked bitch please go back mother fucker.

  4. bastard gerge w bush do you know that the followers of beloved Usama Bin Laden And Islam are spreaded all over the world . dear bastard shame on you , you blamed Usama for terrorism in this world and ihave proofs that will show you as the worst criminal in this world . some followers of Usama are around you some where. you are a son of a fucked bitch please go back mother fucker.

  5. Your opinion that I support GW Bush is a fantasy that you made up. Are you related to or grounded in reality???

    I am for impeachment, indictment and imprisonment of the incompetent ass@#$% named Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, etc…..

    Can you fire a gun from horseback at full gallop or from a moving Harley with accuracy and precision?

    Please don’t mistake my horse for a deer or elk and shoot it out from under me. You can tell it is horse because it will have a saddle on it and it has a much longer tail than a deer or elk.

  6. Ted,

    I know Jennifer personally and have for about 15 years.

    When GW starts throwning down marshal law, I know where my family and I are going: to Jennifer’s.

    There are more people than you can conceive of that really understand what’s going to happen in the near future here in the US.

    We aren’t spies, CIA, FBI, NSA, seditionists, or any of those alphabet government run/financed wanna be nazis.

    Hope you got your back pack ready, a plan, some really good maps or a tolerance for forced concentration camps.

    And don’t say our government is not capable of such things – just ask any of the Japanese Amerikans who were dragged from their businesses and homes and forced to live in concentration camps just because so nut case in Japan decided to bomb Pearl Harbor – another situation that the government could have acted proactively on but didn’t.

    Enjoy supporting ol’ GW. Sooner or later, unless you got a lot of money or something he really wants (or his gready rich friends want) your idol will turn into your warden.

    We need to stop spending money in foreign countries, bring the troops home (remember no weapons of mass distruction found), and spend what money we are spending to have hundreds of thousand military men and women in countries that are willing to blow up civilians and the bad guys here because it is our (AMERICAN) money to spend.

    Quit taxing us if we have no say. Wake up and pay attention to what people are saying. George & and the 500+ idiots in Congress: Stop the death and destruction because you are in a position to stop it and you are in a position to let it happen.

    We, as a people, or more importantly those in charge of the red button and his followers/advisors/lackies do not understand that a religion can be so cruel. Simply read the old testament if you want to talk about cruel! Smiteful dude, wasn’t he?

    The point is that we have got ourselves into another Vietnam situation because we simply (well GW and his croonies) do not get the fact that these cultures are either intensely religious and do not accept or tolerate our way of living or they are nationists following some version of “communism” who just want everyone who isn’t born there to get out. And we simply don’t get it so we insist on wastinge time, energy, resources, and people to get people to think the “Amerikan” way. Where is the freedom in that kind of behavior?

    If the people of Iraq or whatever else we are occupying want the freedoms our Constitution and Bill of Rights give us, give them a copy (translated in their language) and a toll free number to call when they have questions. Other than that – get the hell out of their (not our) but their country!

    Our country as well as our allies – English, Dutch, French, Spanish, etc. – have all participated in warfare because they were greedy and the places they invaded had something “they” wanted – it wasn’t theirs to begin with.

    Get yourself prepared – because a lot of the world is gunning for us and we have most of our trained men and women overseas and not here to protect us.

    Hope that makes you sleep good every night and hope you and your buddy, GW, get your “come uppens” for the hell this country and the supporters of GW have reeked upon the world.

    We need to be doing good – and that doesn’t mean killing people or putting our military men and women in harms way in cultures and countries that will never accept the basic tenents of the US – the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

    Did it ever occur to you, Ted, that these people don’t want the type of government we supposedly have shoved down their throat?

    9/11 should have been a big enough red flag and I’m relatively sure we have enough sophisticated technology we could find old Bin Ladin if we really wanted to. Man on the moon – find Bin Laden.

    Just remember the first amendment, Ted, learn to agree to disagree, and I’ll be remembering the second amendment as well as the rest of them – even though your boy is trying to destroy the very tenents this country was founded on.

    Ok, now anyone who is not a Native American, raise your hand – go home to your country and make it work there. (Native American=the aboriginal people our government systematically destroyed and anyone actually born inside the boundries of Amerika).

  7. I’m sorry but I have no sympathy for anyone who votes republic and then is surprised when they get it stuck to them. all you’d have to do is to look at the history of the gop since hoover to know what they are all about. you made your bed now lay in it. My sympathy goes out to those that knew better.

  8. * Famous presidential quotes:
    -“I’m not a crook” Richard Nixon
    -“We did not trade arms for hostages.” Ronald Reagan
    -“Read my lips no new taxes.” George Bush
    -“I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” William J Clinton
    – ” We do not torture.” George W Bush

  9. Jennifer-
    I am a righteous, arrogant jerk and believe my point of view is the only right one and consider the other 6.2 billion people’s views on the planet to be bad and wrong.

    Consequently, yes I know you and President Bush better than either of you know yourselves.

    I don’t know where you picked up your fantasy about the secret Chinese airbase in California, but I suspect it came from the same place that Bush got his fantasy about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

    As you stated “oh the lies they all weave

    Consider that the “trap” you mentioned we are suffering in is of our own making and it is outlined in the first paragraph of this response.


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