Gore's good poll news is little comfort

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The Independent Online
A RARE flicker of good news cheered supporters of Vice-President Al Gore yesterday, when two new national and statewide opinion polls showed he had widened his lead over Bill Bradley, the former New Jersey senator who is his only rival for next year's Democratic nomination.

Fresh from a campaign trip to Detroit, where he had denounced the evils of suburban "sprawl", Mr Gore was in his element again yesterday, unveiling a concordat with the computer industry to make it more difficult for juveniles to access unsuitable material on the Internet - a response to last month's school shooting.

The overall news for Mr Gore, however, was dismal. The same polls - a national poll conducted by Gallup for CNN and USA Today and a statewide poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire - showed that in a straight contest with the Republican favourite, George W Bush, Mr Gore would lose by 16 points (56-40), a margin of defeat that has remained steady now for three months.

But perhaps the greatest shock for the Gore camp came in the results of a University of Massachusetts poll this week, which showed this most Democratic of states preferring Mr Bush to Mr Gore, albeit by the narrowest of margins (42 to 41 per cent, others undecided). "If the Democrats are in trouble here - if the numbers are this bad in Massachusetts - nationally they are kick-your-ass devastating," said Lou DiNatale, director of the university institute that conducted the poll.

The presidential shadow also looms large over Mr Gore because Bill Clinton is so gifted a populist and Mr Gore appears still so deficient in that area.