Revived Bush cuts Clinton poll lead

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The Independent Online
A revitalised George Bush swept out of his triumphant convention yesterday, with a remarkable upswing in his popularity becoming evident. A CBS News-New York Times poll published yesterday showed that he and the Democratic challenger, Bill Clinton, are now in a dead heat in the race for the White House.

As the President began a campaign swing to consolidate the Republicans' southern stronghold, Mr Clinton assailed the President's proposed tax cuts as a cynical bribe designed to keep him in the White House.

Mr Clinton lashed out at Mr Bush as a 'fear-monger' and accused the Republicans of lying to keep the prestige and perks of power. Referring to the President, Mr Clinton said: 'He's personally untrustworthy. Who could trust him? He promised 15 million jobs and he's 14 million short.' Earlier, in a wide-ranging economic address in Detroit, Mr Clinton damned the mooted across-the-board cut, which Mr Bush said he would put forward when Congress returned in January, as 'false promises' and 'fool's gold' in the face of a dollars 400bn ( pounds 210.5bn) budget deficit. Such fears helped to drive Wall Street 50 points down by the close, as traders worried that a higher deficit could lead to increased pressure on the dollar and higher interest rates.

Mr Clinton compared Mr Bush's offer to his famous, and subsequently abandoned, pledge of 1988 not to raise taxes. 'George Bush is a lot more interested in beating me than helping you,' he said.

The tax-cut offer, which Mr Bush said must be matched by equivalent spending reductions, was the centrepiece of the economic policy outlined in his nomination acceptance speech in Houston on Thursday night, interrupted by applause 75 times. In it, he set the guidelines of his strategy to secure a second term, portraying himself as a foreign policy hero and guardian of traditional values whose domestic shortcomings were to be blamed on an obstructive, do- nothing Democratic Congress.

The Bush campaign model will be Harry Truman's 1948 victory upset, prompting an unlikely spectacle of a Republican quoting a Democrat president as the star to steer by. Quoting Mr Truman's words at his nominating convention 44 years ago, Mr Bush promised a 'crusade to keep America safe and secure for its own people'.

Before the convention, most polls showed Mr Clinton leading by about 30 points. During the convention, and before the boost from the speeches of the President, the hugely popular Mrs Barbara Bush, and Vice-President Dan Quayle, Mr Bush had narrowed the lead to about 18 points.

Nothing in Houston has heartened the Republican faithful more than the hard- hitting performance of Mr Quayle on Thursday, capping an unusually high-profile week for the Vice-President. Just possibly, it may turn him at last into a campaign asset, firing up the party's conservative base without attracting derision.

Although it was Mississippi yesterday where Mr Bush made his call to 'clean out Congress', the real battle will probably centre on a handful of key 'swing' states in the industrial heartland, where economic issues are paramount, and which the Democrats must carry to win. Hence Mr Clinton's appearance in Detroit, whose battered car industry symbolises America's manufacturing decline.

(Photograph omitted)

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