Perot names a running mate

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After an embarrassingly long search, Ross Perot has finally announced a vice-presidential running mate: Pat Choate, a prominent political economist and writer, has little political experience and is best-known for the strong anti-free trade views he shares with the Texan billionaire.

Mr Perot made his choice known during one of his trademark 30-minute "infomercials" last night on the CBS television network. But he has failed to attract the seasoned political name who would have given his second successive run for the White House some sorely needed visibility.

The selection of a running-mate was originally scheduled for the immediate aftermath of the nominating conference of Mr Perot's Reform party on 18 August. But a variety of candidates subsequently turned him down, including David Boren, a former Oklahoma senator, Congresswoman Linda Smith, of Washington, and Dick Lamm, the former governor of Colorado who ran unavailingly for the Reform nomination but now says he will not even vote for Mr Perot in November.

In fact, an ever-dwindling number of Americans appear inclined to do so. In 1992 the Texan's folksy twang and virulently anti-Washington views won him 19 per cent of the vote as an independent. This time, with the novelty worn off, he wins barely 5 per cent in most polls - making it uncertain he will even be able to take part in the candidates' debates this autumn. The first of them is scheduled for 25 September in St Louis, Missouri.

After Mr Perot's 1992 presidential run, he and Mr Choate co-wrote a book predicting the North American Free Trade Agreement would cause a flood of US jobs to go overseas and put pressure on US employers to keep wages and benefits down if they hoped to remain competitive.