US election rivals roar into final straight

AS LABOR DAY yesterday marked the official start of the US presidential campaign, which has in fact been in high gear for several months, both candidates tore into the final straight with rallies in crucial states.

In set-piece Labor Day speeches, President Bush and Bill Clinton drove home their campaign themes to supporters in the unnerving knowledge that the next 56 days, until the 3 November poll, are likely to produce the fiercest White House contest in over a decade. Although most recent opinion polls show a slight narrowing of Mr Clinton's lead over the President, he still remains on average about 10 points ahead. The latest, a poll for NBC television, showed the Arkansas Governor with 49 per cent and Mr Bush with 40 per cent. The same poll recorded 10 per cent of respondents as undecided. Only as election day approaches, and Americans end their holidays and take notice again of politics, will each candidate's support begin to solidify.

Setting a frenzied pace, Mr Bush has visited seven states in three days, including Michigan, Illinois, Kentucky and North Carolina, all likely to be critical in November. Mr Clinton's main appearance yesterday was in Independence, Missouri, home of former president Harry Truman, whose comeback in 1948 has been adopted by Mr Bush as his campaign inspiration.

The next campaign milestone is likely to be the first of three face-to-face television debates between the candidates, scheduled for 22 September. Two more debates are expected to follow in October. In the final two or three weeks of the race, both camps will let loose with multi-million-dollar television advertising campaigns.

There is still room for the unexpected. Democrats wonder privately whether more skeletons lurk in Mr Clinton's character cupboard and the administration could yet pull a policy sensation, such as a renewed campaign against Iraq. Barring the unpredictable, however, the main strategy lines of each camp are now easily discernible. The common target is the soft middle of the electorate, voters who are Democrat in their hearts but recent Republican voters.

The best hope for Mr Bush, who seems unable to overcome the collapse in his popularity, must be to stir doubt about Mr Clinton and his leadership credentials. 'Who can you trust?' is already a well- worked refrain of his campaign.

Most crucially, he must reverse the steep upward trend in the numbers who say they have a favourable view of Mr Clinton. The mantra for the Clinton campaign, meanwhile, remains that of 'change'. Mr Clinton offers his audiences any amount of statistical evidence that they are worse off than they were 12 years ago and that only a Democrat president can reverse the decline. And with his running-mate, Al Gore, of Tennessee, he has the advantage of youth to underline the change message.

The inescapable issue will be the economy and jobs. Mr Bush, whose hopes for a strong pre-election recovery have not been fulfilled, will try to deflect criticism, notably by painting Mr Clinton as a tax-and-spend Democrat. Mr Clinton, meanwhile, will have the easier task of pointing to the country's economic travails and promoting his own programme of tax-increases for the rich and big business to finance public investment in training and job-creation.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
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

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy