Clinton wasted his talents and charm, says Bush

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The Independent US

George W Bush took his campaign for president out into America yesterday, with a triumphant and successful Republican convention behind him. He set out for the key electoral battlegrounds of Ohio, Michigan and Illinois, crucial states he must win if he is to beat Al Gore, his opponent from the Democratic Party.

George W Bush took his campaign for president out into America yesterday, with a triumphant and successful Republican convention behind him. He set out for the key electoral battlegrounds of Ohio, Michigan and Illinois, crucial states he must win if he is to beat Al Gore, his opponent from the Democratic Party.

"We're in for a tough campaign, but we know it and we're ready," said Mr Bush at a rally yesterday in Philadelphia. "As we depart the City of Brotherly Love, we depart with a good feeling in our heart... Our job as leaders - Republicans, Democrats, non-affiliates - is to rally that compassion of America, is to call upon the love that exists not because of government, that exists because of a gracious and loving God."

His speech to the Republican convention late on Thursday night brought its week of highly choreographed celebrations to a tumultuous climax of riotous applause, confetti, fireworks and balloons.

Mr Bush criticised the President, Bill Clinton, and the Vice-President, Mr Gore, as he accepted the party's nomination, but he did so in a tone of regret rather than anger. "Our current President embodied the potential of a generation. So many talents. So much charm. Such great skill," he said. "But in the end, to what end? So much promise, to no great purpose." Four times he repeated: "They had their chance. They have not led. We will." In another backhanded slap at the Clintons, Mr Bush quoted the poet Robert Frost's injunction to "occupy the land withcharacter".

The Governor of Texas, offering himself as a man of action who would seize the moment, said: "We will seize this moment of American promise. We will use these good times for great goals. We will confront the hard issues - threats to our national security, threats to our health and retirement security - before the challenges of our time become crises for our children. And we will extend the promise of prosperity to every forgotten corner of this country," he said

"The night is passing. And we are ready for the day to come," he added, a phrase evoking Ronald Reagan's slogan in 1984: "It's morning again in America." And he called on the party to "tear down that wall" between rich and poor, an allusion to Mr Reagan's admonition to Mikhail Gorbachev to take down the barrier that divided Berlin during the Cold War.

But Mr Bush and his media handlers also drew heavily on the impressions created by the Democrats as they remodelled their party in the early 1990s. A film of Mr Bush's life story, a nine-and-a-half-minute hagiography entitled The Sky's the Limit, was based on a similar film used by the Democrats at the 1992 convention. One senior Republican spoke about the "New Republican Party," an obvious re-use of the formula used by both Bill Clinton and Tony Blair in turning around their parties.

Opinion polls show the strategy is working. Mr Bush is 18 points ahead of Mr Gore among independents, a poll released on Thursday says, while the two were neck and neck four days ago. The Democrats hold their show in Los Angeles in 10 days' time, and Mr Gore will hope that he can recover some ground there. In the next few days he will announce his candidate for vice-president.

The shortlist is already leaking. The contenders include Richard Gephardt, the most senior Democrat in the House of Representatives, Senators John Kerry of Massachusetts, John Edwards of North Carolina, Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and Evan Bayh of Indiana, and the New Hampshire Governor. Jeanne Shaheen. Both Ms Shaheen and Mr Gephardt have said they are not interested in the job.

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