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Bush set to hit back as Democrat leads 2-1

BILL CLINTON has a two-to-one lead over President Bush in two new opinion polls. The polls, taken at the weekend, put the Arkansas Governor 29 or 30 points ahead, approaching double the post-convention bump held, and lost, by Michael Dukakis in 1988.

Although both Republican and Democratic strategists are at pains to point out that summer polls in US presidential races are as soft as butter, Mr Bush's ratings are now close to a historical low for a sitting president.

The White House received further dispiriting news yesterday when the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, Alan Greenspan, forecast only a modest up-turn in the US economy in the second half of this year.

Although he said the recovery would soon 'gather momentum', Mr Greenspan gave the US Congress revised figures forecasting only 2.25 to 2.75 per cent annual growth for 1992, despite a solid first quarter. He also said unemployment would not fall much below its present eight-year peak of 7.8 per cent by the year's end.

In an attempt to arrest the Clinton surge before the Republican convention in Houston next month, the Bush campaign is to lay down its first barrage of nationwide TV advertising during the Barcelona Olympics, beginning this weekend. Mr Bush has dollars 7m ( pounds 3.6m) left over from his primary campaign war-chest. The White House said the advertising during the games would be 'positive'. No attempts would be made at this stage to sling mud at Mr Clinton. The advertisements would show President Bush talking about his record and his economic programme.

The Democratic candidate has overwhelmingly won the first scramble for the loyalties of orphaned supporters of the billionaire independent candidate, Ross Perot, who dropped out of the race last week.

A Washington Post-ABC poll, published yesterday, showed six out of 10 Perot supporters defecting to Mr Clinton and two out of 10 to Mr Bush (with the rest remaining disaffected).

The Perot melt-down, the successful Democratic convention and continuing alarm about the economy pushed Mr Clinton to 58 per cent in the Washington Post- ABC poll and President Bush down to 29 per cent. A Louis Harris poll - also conducted in the three days immediately after the Democratic convention - gave Mr Clinton a 30 point lead, 63 to 33.

A USA Today-CNN poll, published the previous day, showed Mr Clinton comfortably ahead in all regions of the country, including the south, a bastion of Republicanism in most presidential elections in the 1970s and 1980s.