Clinton lead narrows

Bob Dole's relentless attacks on the integrity of President Bill Clinton appear to be paying some belated dividends - though the third candidate in Tuesday's presidential election, Ross Perot, looks to be reaping some of the benefit too.

Two new polls found Mr Clinton maintaining a bare majority among likely voters, although they differed on how badly Mr Dole was trailing. In the ABC News survey, 51 per cent said they would vote for Mr Clinton if the election were today, 40 per cent for Mr Dole and 7 per cent for Mr Perot. The Gallup poll for CNN and USA Today had the race at Clinton 52 per cent, Dole 34 per cent, Perot 10 per cent.

The Dole campaign has seized on another national tracking poll which suggests he is closing the gap. The survey, carried out by the John Zogby Group for Reuters, had Mr Clinton at 42 per cent and Mr Dole at 37 per cent, the first time that the President's lead has fallen below 10 points, although the poll uses different weighting techniques from the other surveys.

But Mr Clinton, stung by the Republican candidate's allegations of improper campaign funding by the Democratic Party, has been forced on to the back foot. His latest message on the campaign trail has been a promise to introduce legislation for campaign finance reform upon his re-election.

The President's far from novel idea, a staple of the Perot campaign diet, is that limits - virtually non-existent now - must be imposed on campaign funding.

Election special, pages 12 and 13