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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Lizards, such as Iguanas (pictured), have a unique pattern of tissue growth
Anna Nicole Smith died of an accidental overdose in 2007
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tvReview: Bread-making skills of the Bake Off hopefuls put to the test
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

EYFS Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education require an ex...

Year 3 Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Year 3 primary supply teacher ne...

SEN Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply special educational ne...

Regional ESF Contract Manager

£32500 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Birmingham: European Social Fund...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home