Clinton's poll lead over Bush slumps to 2 points

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FACED WITH evidence that his grip on the US presidential campaign may suddenly be slipping, Bill Clinton lashed out at President George Bush yesterday accusing him of using 'blatant falsehoods' in his television advertising spots.

Pressured by a new poll that showed his lead over President Bush reduced to a statistically insignificant 2 points, Mr Clinton also hinted for the first time that he may offer his independent rival, Ross Perot, some role in his administration if elected.

The daily CNN-USA Today poll showed Mr Clinton standing at 40 per cent compared with 38 per cent for the President and a distant 16 per cent for Mr Perot. Mr Clinton's lead one day earlier was 6 points.

The news offered a heartening boost to the Bush campaign, which may now see some hope of a dramatic 11-hour comeback before Tuesday's election.

Campaigning in Ohio yesterday, Mr Bush declared: 'We have only a handful of days left. . . . We are going to show these critics and these naysayers and these people, the voice of gloom and doom, that we are going to win.' Other polls however suggested that Mr Clinton's position remains fairly comfortable. Last night's ABC TV poll gave him a 7-point lead, with 42 per cent support, and a survey by the Los Angeles Times showed the Governor still 10 points ahead.

Some of the apparent dip in Mr Clinton's rating may be due to a change in methodology by pollsters who in recent days have switched to interviewing only 'likely voters' instead of all those registered to vote. Less than week ago, polls of registered voters were giving Mr Clinton leads of up to 19 points.

At a rally in Houston, Mr Clinton, sporting for the first time a pair of professorial glasses, flayed Mr Bush's record and once again ridiculed the Bush campaign over reports that it persuaded the State Department to investigate his mother's passport record.

'The Bush campaign has been the most reckless campaign, I think, of any campaign I have seen in modern American history. They are plainly so desperate to hold on to power that they are prepared to say almost anything.'

He was especially pointed in accusing the Bush campaign of lying in its advertising campaign, particularly in spots that suggest a Clinton White House would raise taxes on the middle classes.

'He's just saying what sounds good now and he'll worry about after the election. The American people are not going to know what's false and what's true any more.'

In a new tactic to woo Perot supporters, Mr Clinton said in a television interview that in his administration he would 'like to have Ross Perot's involvement on the issues that he cares about and knows about'. Those would be cutting the deficit and tracking those missing in Vietnam.

It seems that the rise in Mr Bush's poll numbers is being driven by a defection of supporters from Mr Perot, repelled by the spectacle this week of the Texan accusing the Bush campaign of plotting to disrupt his daughter's wedding last summer.

Campaign reports, page 11

Reggie Nadelson, page 16