Baker may get a call to arms

WHITE HOUSE officials are privately convinced that James Baker, who is on a new peace mission to the Middle East, will soon step down, on a temporary basis or otherwise, from his job as Secretary of State to take charge of the flagging re-election campaign of his old friend George Bush.

Jolted by the huge popularity 'bounce' that Democratic nominee Bill Clinton has gained from his convention, the Bush camp began its counter-attack in earnest yesterday.

The President, who earlier in the day lambasted Mr Clinton's economic plan as a 'smoke and mirrors' cover for planned tax increases, was due to give a satellite pep-talk to Republican rallies in 27 states last night. Later this week he may unveil a revamped economic strategy. Nothing, though, would have the impact of a summons to Mr Baker.

The move would be a calculated gamble - in effect tying Mr Bush's hands in foreign policy, the one area where he is deemed more effective than Mr Clinton, and perhaps creating the impression that the President is wholly reliant on Mr Baker's organisational skills for victory.

But, such is the state of the President's campaign, that most of his strategists feel there is little choice.

Both Mr Bush, after his fishing holiday in Wyoming last week with the Secretary of State, and Mr Baker during his trip to the Middle East, have left the door open to a shake-up.

So too, most studiously, did White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater at his regular daily briefing yesterday.

There are other signs, too, which might portend change. Unusually, deputy State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, as well as Margaret Tutwiler, is accompanying Mr Baker to the Middle East, suggesting he is being groomed to take over should Ms Tutwiler, a long time assistant, go with Mr Baker to aid the re-election effort.

The logistics of any such move remain unclear. In 1988 Mr Baker quit as Treasury Secretary to head Mr Bush's campaign. If he takes on similar duties this time, his deputy, Lawrence Eagleburger, could become acting Secretary of State on an interim basis.

But if he takes a formal post - say White House Chief of Staff or a domestic cabinet job - a replacement would have to be named.

There is still talk, moreover, of Vice-President Dan Quayle being dropped from the Republican ticket should Mr Bush's popularity fail to pick up quickly. The odds on this happening are slim but if it did, major changes in the administration would follow, conceivably involving a straight swap between Mr Quayle and either Mr Baker or the Defence Secretary, Dick Cheney.

Meanwhile the Clinton bandwagon, or rather his current barnstorming tour by bus of the Midwest, continues most emphatically to roll.

A new CNN/USA Today poll gives the Arkansas Governor a 22 per cent lead over Mr Bush, a measure of how supporters of the candidate-who-never-quite-was Ross Perot are flocking in droves to Mr Clinton.

By more than two to one, Mr Perot's followers prefer Mr Clinton to the President.

Remarkably, 47 per cent of voters now think the Democrats will win in November, against 37 per cent who foresee a Republican victory. As recently as mid-March, three-quarters of a similar sample believed Mr Bush was a shoo-in.

For its part, Mr Perot's disarray deepens. Erstwhile state organisers failed to come up with a coherent strategy at a weekend meeting in Dallas, while some of his diehard supporters in Florida are filing a 'class-action' lawsuit. They are not seeking financial damages for his withdrawal, but want him compelled to maintain his original promise to run on the ballot on all 50 states if he was given enough support.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Life and Style
life
News
Melissa and Joan Rivers together at an NBC event in May 2014
peopleDaughter Melissa thanks fans for 'outpouring of support'
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
One in six drivers cannot identify a single one of the main components found under the bonnet of an average car
motoringOne in six drivers can't carry out basic under-bonnet checks
News
i100
Voices
Pupils educated at schools like Eton (pictured) are far more likely to succeed in politics and the judiciary, the report found
voices
Arts and Entertainment
Shady character: Jon Hamm as sports agent JB Bernstein in Million Dollar Arm
filmReview: Jon Hamm finally finds the right role on the big screen in Million Dollar Arm
News
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Research and Insight Analyst (Mathematics Graduate)

£25000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are cur...

Head of People (HR, Payroll and Training) - Not-for-profit

£45000 - £50000 per annum + 5 weeks holidays & benefits: Ashdown Group: Head o...

Nursery assistants required in Cambridgeshire

£10000 - £15000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Nursery assistants re...

IT Support Manager - Staffordshire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Support Manager - Near...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone