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
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
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

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

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