The US Presidential Elections: Perot gambles on 'town hall' revival

ULTIMATELY, it was surely ego which dictated Ross Perot's re-entry into the Presidential race - his self-appointed role as a nation's saviour from economic ruin, and the fear of seeing a spectacular business career buried beneath the mocking epitaph of 'The Yellow Ross of Texas', the man who quit when the going got too tough.

But the consensus is that whatever the impact of his 11th-hour candidacy is in individual states, he is unlikely, as matters stand, greatly to interfere with Bill Clinton's apparently predestined glide to victory on 3 November.

Mr Perot's news conference in Dallas was a vintage effort, combining all the features which earlier this summer enthralled a nation, but now irritate it: the imperious conviction that he embodies America's will, a bristling dislike of the press, and the tirelessly restated belief that neither Republicans nor Democrats are addressing the problems of debt and industrial decline.

No one can be certain of the campaign he will wage before polling day, except for two things: there will be precious little contact with the journalists whose investigation of his career prompted his first withdrawal last July, and that - as when he once rode so high in the polls - television will be its centrepiece.

'Would you expect me to reveal my strategy?' he said on Thursday. In fact, an advertising avalanche is ready to be unleashed on the small screen, while rumours abound that he is booking half- hour network slots from next week, for the 'town hall' question-and-answer shows with the public at which he excels.

Alas the public is no longer so enchanted. Perot, the would-be messiah, is now just Perot the spoiler. According to the daily political newsletter Hotline, he will not alter the outcome in a single state. A poll in yesterday's Los Angeles Times suggests that even in California he trails Mr Clinton by 32 points and Mr Bush by 11. Nearly two Americans in three believe he should have stayed out.

But for the Bush camp these days, anything that shakes up the contest is good news. Although Mr Perot could damage the President in the battle for the big Southern prizes of Florida and Texas, the White House clings to the hope that even modest Perot inroads could tilt key Rust Belt states like Ohio and Michigan its way. Then there are the debates.

Negotiations between Bush and Clinton advisers this week have at last yielded a compromise: there will be three presidential debates and one vice-presidential match- up, crammed into a nine-day period between 11 and 19 October. The formats will vary, accommodating the wishes of the two sides. Most tantalising of all, if both sides are sincere, Mr Perot will be taking part.

There, if anywhere, lies the chance to confound his critics, bring his radical deficit-cutting proposals to the forefront of the campaign and alter its dynamic. In a contest whose hallmark is not so much affection for Mr Clinton as disaffection for the President, a three-way confrontation could upset every calculation.

But Mr Perot's road remains steeply uphill. Every precedent is that independent candidacies fade as election day approaches. Moreover, his vow to 'stick to the real issues' is a formula that works in business, but not in the cruel arena of politics, above all one where the press is unremittingly hostile, if not openly scornful.

Strident, pugnacious and self-righteous, Mr Perot's personality will be under the microscope again. And the experience could be miserable. 'I don't think there is anything about the rest of this that is going to make him anything but unhappy,' his long time associate Thomas Barr told the New York Times yesterday. 'It's going to be more of the same that he hated before.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Network Engineer - London - £70,000

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An excellent opportunity ...

Ashdown Group: Senior Systems Administrator - London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Systems Administra...

Recruitment Genius: Communications and External Affairs Assistant

£24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Communications and External Affairs As...

Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst- (Customer Support) - £29,000

£29000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst- (Customer Suppor...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness