Labor Day gets race under way


For the United States, it is the bitter-sweet holiday which bids a wistful goodbye to summer. But every four years, for the presidential candidates and their running mates, and the small army of reporters who will accompany them for the next two months, it is the kick-off for the most gruelling election campaign yet devised by man.

Yesterday, both President Bill Clinton and his Republican challenger, Bob Dole, obeyed the Labor Day tradition: the incumbent taking to the hustings in the key industrial state of Wisconsin, and his opponent off to a rally in St Louis at the 600ft high arch on the banks of the Mississippi river, symbolic gateway to the West and (Mr Dole fervently hopes) gateway to the swing state of Missouri and to final victory on 5 November.

For both men it is the last election, hard though that may be to believe of that compulsive and hugely gifted campaigner Bill Clinton, at the tender political age of 50. As for Mr Dole, at the age of 73 he has, in his own words, "nowhere to go but the White House, or home".

And it is to the latter that the Republican presently looks to be heading. Mr Clinton starts with all the high cards, and every precedent argues for his re-election. For one thing, incumbents who avoid a serious challenge in the primaries invariably win. So do those presiding over an economy growing - as did the US's in the second quarter - at 4.8 per cent a year.

Polls since last week's convention in Chicago put his lead back at 15 to 20 per cent, virtually eradicating whatever "bounce" Mr Dole took with him from San Diego a fortnight ago. Never in modern American history has such a deficit at Labor Day been reversed in the following two months.

Admittedly, Gerald Ford in 1976 and Hubert Humphrey in 1968 came close after emerging from their respective conventions far behind. But both failed. And even in the most legendary comeback of them all, Harry Truman's against Thomas Dewey in 1948, the largest measured lead of the Republican was 13 per cent. And Truman was an incumbent president.

To turn history on its head, the conventional wisdom says, Mr Dole must have some help from outside - a Wall Street crash (unlikely), a foreign policy calamity (Iraq thus far is not measuring up), or a scandal that engulfs Mr Clinton (despite Whitewater and Dick Morris, nothing in prospect of the scale required).

In terms of regions, and the individual states whose electoral college votes formally determine the winner, Mr Clinton's position looks equally unassailable. On both coasts he is far ahead: in the East, he is poised to carry every state from Maine to Maryland, with the possible exception of New Hampshire. On the other side, Washington, Oregon and above all California, whose 54 electoral votes are, on their own, one-fifth of the 270 needed to win, look solid.

Mr Dole can count on most of the South, although Mr Clinton should win in at least his native Arkansas, perhaps Tennessee, and is competitive in Florida which no Republican can afford to lose. Almost certainly, Mr Dole will carry the central tier of Plains states, north and south of his native Kansas, as well as most of the Rocky Mountain states.

And if the race does become close, it will be decided in the arc of old industrial states from Wisconsin through Illinois, Ohio and Michigan to Pennsylvania - in every one of which the President now enjoys a handsome lead. If the election were held tomorrow, one study says, he would win an electoral college landslide of 409 to 126.

The presence, too, of the independent Ross Perot works to Mr Clinton's advantage. The Texas billionaire has yet to find a vice-presidential candidate for the Reform Party ticket, and his first 30-minute television "info- mercial" this weekend went by almost unnoticed. But even if he wins half or less of the 19 per cent he took in 1992, the bulk of those votes are expected to be at Mr Dole's expense.

Mr Perot's strongest issue is the deficit, and, in Sunday's broadcast, he took direct aim at Mr Dole's promise of a 15 per cent across-the-board tax cut, describing it as a re-run of the supply-side "voodoo economics" of the Reagan era, which had helped run up the national debt to $5,000bn (pounds 3,300bn).

Small wonder the Dole camp is desperately trying to keep Mr Perot out of the three presidential debates this autumn, the first of them in St Louis on 25 September, and that Mr Clinton's aides are trying equally hard to have him take part.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
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

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas