A GOP Surprise Courtesy of Investors?

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If you go by the political betting markets—not to mention those devastating polls—the GOP has about the same chance (30 percent or so) of keeping House of Representatives under Republican control as the United States does of catching Osama bin Laden or of bombing Iran by the end of next year. (But it has twice as good a chance as Joey Lawrence does of winning Dancing With the Stars, natch!) Yet there goes White House political adviser Karl Rove this week predicting the GOP will hold both the House and the Senate. (A veteran Washington watcher and money guy snarked to me, "I wonder if this is the same version of Rove that predicted an easy victory for Bush in 2000 and had him taking a victory lap in California.")

Then I got an upbeat voice mail—he was returning a phone call—from conservative activist Grover Norquist, founder of Americans for Tax Reform. Maybe Norquist is channeling the same optimistic ether as Rove, or maybe he's just getting a peek at those famous voting metrics tracked by Ken Mehlman, chairman of the Republican National Committee. Maybe both. Norquist, though, highlighted the role of the "investor class" in helping the GOP come Election Day.

In Norquist's own words: "Remember what happened in 2002. We were supposed to lose the 2002 election partially because the stock market collapsed, but the people who saw the stock market collapse reacted by wanting their stock prices to go up. The [Democrats] were going to attack business; the Republicans weren't going to. ... Everybody knew who was on which side, and now we see the stock market going up, and everybody knows that the Democrats want to hand it all over to the labor unions and the trial lawyers to loot."

Since the Dow Jones industrial average just nudged above 12,000 for the first time ever, it seems that investors are hardly panicking over a Democrat-controlled House. That probability is pretty much baked into the financial cake—though, keep in mind, not a Dem Senate-House twofer. If there's an upside surprise for Republicans on November 7, it may come from a combination of fatter investment accounts and a strong job market. And there's this: The September consumer price index report showed a 0.5 percent drop in the number that includes food and energy. That effectively translates into higher take-home pay. So will it be pocketbook issues or charges of salaciously E-mailing congressional pages that prove more influential for voters?