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Some 30 years ago, Democratic political strategist James Carville focused Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign with the mantra, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

America had just experienced a relatively brief, mild recession, owing partly to sharply rising oil prices following Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. Between the slow recovery and Ross Perot’s independent candidacy (which peeled votes away from then-President George Bush), the stage was set for a Clinton victory.

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