US Presidential Elections: Campaign Diary

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The Independent Online
PRESIDENT BUSH, the Sinophile and former envoy to Peking, is suffering the electoral equivalent of the China Syndrome: meltdown of the core Republican vote. The party faithful is assumed to be at least 35 to 36 per cent of the voters. The President, squeezed by a resurgent Ross Perot, is now down to 28 to 29 per cent in two reputable polls.

If the President slips another three or four percentage points, the Grand Old Party faces political humiliation and financial embarrassment. If President Bush fails to get 25 per cent of the national vote, the Republicans will cease to be considered a leading political party under federal rules for the next presidential election. Their candidate in 1996 will lose dollars 55m ( pounds 33.7m) in public funds. Nor will the party receive any public money for its convention in four years' time.

Over the next nine days, the President is fighting not just to win this election, which is almost certainly a lost cause; he is fighting to give the Republican candidate an even money chance to unseat Bill Clinton (or Ross Perot?) in 1996.

ET TU, Kennebunkport. The York County Coast Star, circulation 4,000, the daily organ of Kennebunkport, Maine, seat of Mr Bush's summer home, has endorsed Bill Clinton for president. 'The choice is clear: Clinton offers change,' says the Star. What change - perhaps Kennebunkporters want to sweep out all the secret service agents, television cameras and journalists who have clogged up the bars and golf courses for the last four summers?

In fact, the Star is at the journalistic cutting edge. A poll of editorials nationwide shows that, for the first time since the Johnson-Goldwater race in 1964, a majority of newspapers backs the Democratic candidate. At the latest count, Bill Clinton leads by 149 endorsements to 121, with two media votes for Ross Perot.

THE runway at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The Clinton air caravan has just arrived, an hour late, having covered 2,000 miles, five states and three time zones that day. The press, dreaming of hotel bars and beds, huddles sullenly around its bus. Mr Clinton bounces down the gangway and begins to shake hands with everyone in the airport.

Finally, when it seems he can find no more hands to shake, a small, far-away group begins to chant 'We Want Bill'. The Governor homes in on them. The press, panic-stricken, sets up a desperate counter-chant: 'Get in the car. Get in the car.' Mr Clinton gets in his car.

CLINTON aides are bracing themselves for an inhuman, final nine days of campaigning. James Carville, the entertaining chief strategist, the worst dressed political consultant in the world, is a superstitious Cajun (French- American from Louisiana). From now until polling day, he is refusing to change his underpants.

BUSHISM of the day: Speaking to a crowd of 15,000 in Ridgewood, New Jersey, Mr Bush said he was heartened by their 'lovely recession, er, lovely reception'.

Quayleism of the day: In the final debate, Governor Clinton said: 'I am a job creator, not a job destroyer.' Vice-President Quayle on the stump in Michigan two days later: 'The President says 'I am a job creator, not a job destroyer'.'

Bumper sticker of the day: On a police van in Seattle, 'Say noe to Bush and Quayle.'