The US Presidential Elections: The Democratic Convention: Clinton bounces into big lead in latest polls

GOVERNOR Bill Clinton of Arkansas - leading the US electoral pack in dramatic new polls - was formally nominated last night as the Democratic candidate for President.

Mr Clinton's 'bounce' from a largely successful Democratic convention has been earlier and stronger than expected - assisted by the favourable reception to his choice of running mate and the continuing travails of the independent candidate, Ross Perot.

An ABC TV/Washington Post opinion poll showed Mr Clinton well ahead with 45 per cent against 28 per cent for President George Bush and 20 per cent for Mr Perot. The New York Daily News put Mr Clinton at 40 per cent, Mr Bush at 31 per cent and Mr Perot at 20 per cent. In a two- way race with Mr Bush, Mr Clinton led by 50 to 38.6 - his first- ever lead over the President.

Mr Clinton should gain a further boost from his acceptance speech tonight but his message - this is a new, moderate and practical Democratic Party with fresh, vigorous young candidates - may not reach as many voters as he had hoped. The home audience for the reduced TV coverage of the Madison Square Garden convention has been the lowest of any convention in the television age.

There is also some concern in the Clinton camp that the Perot campaign may disintegrate too rapidly - easing the pressure on Mr Bush as he heads into the Republican convention in Houston in four weeks. Mr Perot's latest misfortunes are to lose the respected veteran arms negotiator, Paul Nitze, from an otherwise undistinguished team of foreign policy advisers, and Ed Rollins, the co-chairman of the campaign.

Mr Nitze said he left because he was 'shocked' by the Texan's opinion that the US should be an 'Asian-Pacific power', with little need to preserve its European entanglements. Mr Rollins, who masterminded the re-election campaign of Ronald Reagan in 1984, is leaving only 45 days after he signed up, citing 'differences over overall strategy and tactics' with Mr Perot.

On the second and third day of the convention the Democrats' liberal and left-wing chieftains - outmanoeuvred and outvoted by Clinton supporters - climbed aboard the moderate bandwagon with varying degrees of enthusiasm and sullenness. There was also a first convention speech in 12 years from Jimmy Carter, the last moderate Southerner to win the nomination and the last Democrat to be elected president.

Mr Carter, warmly received after years in the political wilderness, made a blunt attack on President Bush as a promoter of conflict and 'bloodshed' abroad, cynical do-nothingism at home.

The Rev Jesse Jackson, who managed to be angry, passionate and (for him) subdued, saluted 'President Clinton' and urged Democrats to hold on to the moral centre, while chasing the political centre. And he gave a broad hint that he expected to be considered for a job in a Clinton administration.

Doug Wilder of Virginia, the nation's only black governor, finally endorsed Mr Clinton on Tuesday night. Senator Ted Kennedy was due to do so last night, after a convention tribute to his brother, Robert. Even Jerry Brown, the former governor of California, appeared to have reached some sort of accommodation with Mr Clinton and the party leadership.

(Photograph omitted)

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