US Presidential Elections: Campaign Diary

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The Independent Online
IT'S UNCLEAR whether it's the fear of defeat or the smell of victory but the Bush campaign's language has become dirtier and dottier as the campaign draws to a close. (And all that talk of family values]) Bruce Willis, an actor who specialises in movies with at least one violent death a frame, told a Bush rally in Michigan that he was 'pissed off' with Bill Clinton. Mr Bush, leader of the free world, then took the podium to make the following, considered remarks. On Bill Clinton and Al Gore: 'My dog Millie knows more about foreign policy than these two bozos.' On Al Gore: 'You know why I call him Ozone Man? This guy is so far out on the environmental extreme, we'll be up to our neck in owls and outta work for every American. He is way out, far out, man.'

MARYLAND'S curmudgeonly Democratic Governor, Donald Schaefer, has found a new way of pursuing his squabble with his successor as mayor of Baltimore, Kurt Schmoke (who is a friend of Bill Clinton). Governor Schaefer yesterday became the only senior elected, Democratic official in the country to endorse Mr Bush. But why did he do so in Missouri?

Here is why. The national Bush campaign was delighted with its coup in capturing Mr Schaefer; the Maryland Republican party was horrified. Mr Schaefer's popularity ratings are among the lowest of any governor in the state's history. Mr Schaefer's defection might play well nationally, said the state Republican party chairman, Joyce Terhes, but it will clinch Maryland's ten electoral college votes for Mr Clinton.

AMERICANS are taking the election very seriously this year. How do we know? When asked which was more important, the outcome of the baseball World Series, or the outcome of the election, 88 per cent said politics was more important than baseball. One television station in Denver, Colorado, has refused to interrupt its showing of Monday Night Football on the eve of the election for a 30-minute, paid info-mercial by Ross Perot, but the billionaire told his Colorado supporters this week that, if necessary, he will buy the station.

THE JAPANESE are now perfectly content to trade in George Bush for a new model. Last February, reflecting the traditional Japanese fear of Democrats, a senior Japanese economic official wrote that Tokyo must do all in its power to get Mr Bush re-elected. Now the Japanese government is passing the word that the younger, more vigorous Mr Clinton may be better news for the economy of Japan's most important customer. Every Japanese politician who has met Governor Clinton is being encouraged to say nice things about him. 'He was an outstanding person,' said Kazuo Aichi, a member of the Diet, recalling his meeting with the Democrat at a US governors' conference. 'Even though he was young, I had the impression he was a real leader.'

BILL Clinton's lead among odds- makers in London and Las Vegas has slipped from 1-6 to 1-3 in the last week, as President Bush has surged in the polls. But the odds have been disturbed by a rumour that a damaging story will soon break about Mr Clinton. The rumour takes various forms but the most persistent is that a photograph has surfaced from his anti- Vietnam War days showing a hirsute Clinton burning an American Flag. No sign of the picture so far.

A FAMILIAR, husky voice came on the line from Beverly Hills during Ross Perot's appearance on the Larry King Live talk show on Thursday night. Cher - for it was she - announced she had had difficulty in deciding her vote. 'I was really nervous, really frightened.' But in the end, she said, she had cast her absentee ballot for Mr Perot. Mr Perot's ears seemed to quiver with delight.