Forbes cries foul as Republicans woo Iowa

Amid a welter of "dirty-tricks" accusations and a last-minute scramble for the votes of religious conservatives, Iowa tonight holds its precinct caucuses - the first big test in the chase for the Republican presidential nomination, in which the main focus will be on who comes second behind Bob Dole.

Two polls released in the final weekend of campaigning put the Senate majority leader comfortably ahead in Iowa, with 28 per cent against 16 per cent for his closest rival. In one poll this was the publishing magnate Steve Forbes; in the other, the current "hot" candidate, the right-wing commentator Pat Buchanan.

But Lamar Alexander, the former Tennessee governor, is also in double figures, closely followed by Senator Phil Gramm of Texas, despite his humiliating defeat at the hands of Mr Buchanan in last week's Louisiana caucuses.

Adding to the uncertainty is the quarter of likely voters who say they are undecided, and the angry claims of Mr Forbes that his campaign is being undermined by an anonymous phone campaign mounted by the Dole camp.

"They did it in last month's Alaska straw poll, it's happening here, and they're doing it in New Hampshire [where the crucial first primary will be held next Tuesday]," Mr Forbes told supporters here on Saturday evening. Mr Dole denies everything, but a former employee of a Utah telemarketing company claims he made such calls, understood to be on behalf of the Kansas Senator.

The aim, allegedly, has been to blacken Mr Forbes's name among religious conservatives, who may account for half of all Republican caucus-goers tonight.

In fact, the real culprit is the dubious but widely used campaign technique of "push polling", theoretically designed to identify weaknesses of rival candidates but which can easily mutate into smear campaigns by another name.

If so, the tactic seems to be working. By the Forbes camp's own admission, his backing among the so-called "social conservatives" has plummeted, amid doubts over his anti-abortion and anti-gay credentials. Most of that support seems to be going to Mr Dole and Mr Buchanan, with a smaller portion crossing to Mr Gramm.

In a bid to recoup the lost ground, Mr Forbes yesterday added to the $15m (pounds 10m) he has already spent on advertising by running 30-minute promotional "info-mercials" on Iowa television stations, akin to the paid programmes of the billionaire Texan businessman Ross Perot during his 1992 run for the White House.

But the protestations by Mr Forbes are arousing scant sympathy - indeed, they are widely seen as just deserts after the torrent of negative TV advertising he has loosed in a state where gentlemanly town-hall campaigning and cosy chats with candidates is a sacred tradition. The advertising may also have disgusted some Republicans enough to keep them from the caucuses, although Iowa's Republican Governor, Terry Branstad, predicted a record turn-out of 150,000 or more at the 2,142 individual caucuses across this farmbelt state.

Otherwise, though, the campaign is ending much as it begun, bereft of ideas apart from Mr Forbes's flat-tax and Mr Buchanan's "America First" crusade to protect US workers' jobs and dismantle the North American Free Trade Area, and conducted largely in fealty to the Christian right.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Recruitment Genius: Front End Developer / Web Designer

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leader in the e-cigarette ...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leader in the e-cigarette ...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future