The US Presidential Elections: Congress defeat adds to Bush gloom

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The Independent Online
PRESIDENT George Bush's re-election prospects looked bleaker than ever yesterday, with four new polls showing him still far behind Governor Bill Clinton, and Congress inflicting a humiliating defeat on him over a bill to regulate cable television.

Suffering the first such setback of his presidency, the President saw a personal veto of a bill to cap the cost of cable television services overturned in both the Senate and House of Representatives late on Monday. The bill is popular with many voters who believe they are overcharged by cable companies.

The four opinion polls, meanwhile, were all taken since the re-entry of Ross Perot into the race last Thursday and together suggest strongly that the Texan billionaire is neither gathering any significant support for himself nor in any way detracting from the solid lead of Mr Clinton.

The polling results, with one indicating a 17-point lead for Mr Clinton, are encouraging speculation that the Arkansas Governor may even be headed for a landslide victory in November.

They also emphasise the importance of the three TV presidential debates, which begin next Sunday, as offering the President probably his last opportunity to break back into contention.

The narrowest Clinton lead, of 8 per cent over Mr Bush, was registered by a New York Times poll. In almost all its detail, though, the survey offered only discouraging news for the President.

It showed only 16 per cent of voters approving Mr Bush's handling of the economy and only 37 per cent giving him credit for management of the nation's affairs generally.

But there is no succour for Mr Perot either. In contrast to the high-flying popularity he enjoyed briefly before drawing back from the race in mid-July, he is now attracting between 7 and 10 per cent in the polls.

The New York Times survey showed that 80 per cent of his former supporters now mistrust him. Confounding the normal rules of campaigning, Mr Perot is making no personal public appearances, choosing instead to contend the race solely by television, with the airing last night of the first in a series of 30- minute Perot advertisements.

In losing the cable TV battle, Mr Bush was deserted by many Republican senators and representatives unable to support him on the issue. Both chambers in Congress easily attained the two-thirds majorities needed to override a presidential veto.

'It's an indication of the winds of change that are blowing across the country,' said Democratic running mate, Al Gore, who co- authored the disputed bill.