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
Property
pets
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
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: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk