Bush struggles to dent Clinton's lead

DESPITE a spirited fightback on the hustings, the utterly separate issues of taxation and the aftermath of the hurricane in Florida are combining to hinder President George Bush as he struggles to make inroads into the substantial early lead still enjoyed by his Democratic opponent, Governor Bill Clinton.

As a no-holds-barred campaign for the November election moves into its second week, Mr Bush is clearly benefiting from James Baker's firm hand at the helm of the White House re-election operation. Gone is the disastrous indecision of the spring and summer. Now the President is focusing his counter-attack on specific targets, such as trade and jobs, and playing his strongest card of foreign policy and security expertise for all it is worth.

Thus far, however, the renewed sense of purpose has not showed up in the polls. Two more published this weekend, by Time/CNN and Newsweek still have Mr Clinton ahead by 6 and 10 points respectively. The deficit is all the more worrying for the Republicans in that, after the counter-productive posturing over 'family values' following the Houston convention, the campaign is now starting to focus on the economy, the issue that almost certainly will settle matters on 3 November.

And every sign is that the Republican attempt to portray Mr Clinton as a man who believes higher taxes are the answer to every problem is backfiring. In the last few days the Clinton camp has been forced on the defensive as it furiously rebuts charges that he raised taxes 128 times in his 12 years as Governor of Arkansas. But the patent untruth of the accusations has only cast doubt on the sincerity of Mr Bush's own pledges to make across-the-board tax cuts in a second term.

At a White House briefing last week he refused to give details of what he had in mind. Interviewed on CBS television yesterday, the Vice-President, Dan Quayle, also floundered when pressed on the point, unable to say either how large the tax cuts would be, nor how the money would be found to pay for them.

Perhaps more unfairly, Mr Bush may end up as the scapegoat for the delay in federal aid to clear up the devastation in southern Florida in the wake of Hurricane Andrew. Mr Clinton and his advisers have carefully stopped short of criticising Mr Bush in person, urging instead a 'non-political' inquiry into the bureaucratic problems that held up the relief effort.

But for all the restraint, the outcry is likely to work to Mr Bush's disadvantage. Why, it is asked, cannot Florida, home of the military command which two years ago tackled the first consequences of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, benefit from a similar emergency response to a calamity in its own backyard?

Once again, Republicans fear, the impression will be created of an administration far more interested in foreign than domestic affairs. To prove the truth is otherwise, Mr Bush was forced to cancel a planned campaign swing to the crucial state of California, and hold an unusual White House press conference on Saturday to announce further aid measures.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Powdered colors are displayed for sale at a market ahead of the Holi festival in Bhopal, India
techHere's what you need to know about the riotous occasion
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
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

Recruitment Genius: Finance Assistant / Credit Controller

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are an award-winning digit...

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable