Gore surges into 10-point poll lead as Republican campaign falters

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The Independent US

After two weeks of small-print skirmishing, the United States Vice-President, Al Gore, went into the Labor Day holiday weekend yesterday with a decisive lead over his Republican opponent, George W Bush.

After two weeks of small-print skirmishing, the United States Vice-President, Al Gore, went into the Labor Day holiday weekend yesterday with a decisive lead over his Republican opponent, George W Bush.

A poll conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates for Newsweek magazine showed Mr Gore 10 points ahead of Mr Bush, the first time he has moved out of the 4-5 point margin of error.

The poll, conducted over the last two days of August, showed Mr Gore leading Mr Bush 49 to 39 points. The Green Party candidate and consumer activist, Ralph Nader, was at 3 per cent and Patrick Buchanan, the nominee of the split Reform Party, 1 per cent. A poll conducted by the same organisation one week before gave Mr Gore a lead of four points.

The Newsweek poll, released before Monday's Labor Day holiday, is significant not only because it shows Mr Gore with his first convincing lead, but because it shows that he has built on the advantage he gained from the Democratic Party's convention even as memories of it fade. Mr Bush, in contrast, started to lose the ground he had gained as his convention success receded.

Polls around Labor Day are traditionally seen as a more accurate indicator of the eventual election result because they come at a respectable distance from both party conventions and because for many voters it marks the start of the campaign proper - the point at which they start to sit up and take notice.

Past elections have shown, with very few exceptions, that a candidate who is significantly ahead after Labor Day stays ahead. The contest for the lead at this point is one reason why the two contenders have campaigned so intensively in the two weeks since the Democrats' convention, tracking each other's every move and challenging or rebutting every statement.

The confidence of the Gore camp increased perceptibly by the day, as the Democratic candidate lambasted Mr Bush on a series of policies - prescription drug insurance for pensioners, child health and poverty - and attempts by the Republican to refocus the debate on his party's traditional strengths - tax cuts and national defence -largely failed.

Mr Gore was also helped by his running-mate, Joseph Lieberman, who proved an enthusiastic and adept campaigner. Mr Bush's running mate, Dick Cheney, meanwhile, found himself mired in a public controversy about his retirement package and share options.

Mr Gore's surge into the lead in nice time for Labor Day was hailed with relief in one unlikely quarter. In May, a group of political scientists forecast a Gore victory using mathematical formulae that have proved highly accurate ever since they were first applied half a century ago. Then, their results ran counter to the polls which showed Mr Bush with a solid lead. This week, at the annual political science convention, they updated and confirmed their earlier conclusion, giving Mr Gore between 52 and 60 per cent of the vote.

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