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United States: Bill Clinton is still ahead in the presidential race

PETER THOMPSON: Well, we have just heard that the financial markets are concerned that Bill Clinton will soon be moving into the White House, and the evidence for that is mounting. With four weeks to go before American voters decide who'll be their next President, Bill Clinton is still well ahead. The latest opinion poll by CNN and USA Today has Bill Clinton losing 5 per cent support since the Independent, Ross Perot, returned to the race last week. But Bill Clinton still clearly leads President Bush. Steve Sailah reports from Washington.

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UNIDENTIFIED: George Bush is running attack ads. He says all these people would have their taxes raised by Bill Clinton. Scary, eh? Misleading, says the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal says Clinton has proposed to cut taxes for the sort of people featured in Bush's ad. So why is Bush doing it? Because George Bush has had the worst economic record of any President in 50 years. George Bush is trying to scare you about Bill Clinton, but nothing could be more frightening than four more years.

STEVE SAILAH: The Clinton campaign message keeps coming back to the essential issue - the one that Americans are overwhelmingly concerned with, the unshakeable public perception that the US economy is in deep trouble. No matter how President Bush talks of what he'll do in the future to create growth, new jobs, a $US10 trillion economy, most Americans seem to have decided he's had his chance. The CNN-USA Today survey, the first since Ross Perot's entrance, claims only 33 per cent of respondents approve of Bush's handling of the presidency. That's much lower than President Jimmy Carter's rating at the same time in the campaign in 1980, and Carter lost that year in a landslide to Ronald Reagan. But the Bush camp isn't sitting still.

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UNIDENTIFIED: The presidential candidate on the left stood for military action in the Persian Gulf, while the candidate on the right agreed with those who opposed it. He says he wouldn't rule out ...... while he says he's personally opposed to ...... This candidate was called up for military service, while this one claims he wasn't. One of these candidates is Bill Clinton. Unfortunately, so is the other.

STEVE SAILAH: But nothing President Bush does or says alters his rating in the opinion polls - around 40 per cent, depending on the survey. So today the President was desperately campaigning in Delaware, close to Washington, trying to make the mud stick to Bill Clinton six days before the first presidential debate in Missouri next week.

GEORGE BUSH: Look at the economy, the major issue in this campaign. I know America's had some tough economic times, but understand we're being affected by a global economic slowdown. Our competitors in Europe, every single one of them, would trade places with us in a minute, and yet Governor Clinton offers America the same European social welfare state policies, more government, more special interests, more special interests spending and more taxes on the middle class. But when people go into that booth I think that in addition to all these issues, I think they're going to say who has made the tough decisions, but much more important, they're going to say: Who do I trust? Who has the character to lead this country for four years? And on that basis I ask for your support as President of the United States so I can finish the job. Thank you all, and may God bless you. Thank you very, very much.

STEVE SAILAH: But few people would put money on a Bush re-election. His new rival, Texas billionaire Ross Perot, has almost no chance of gaining the White House, but his involvement in the upcoming debates - three presidential confrontations over nine days in prime time television viewing - remain the wildcard of the campaign. Perot today vigorously denied his candidacy would end up spoiling Bill Clinton's chances by splitting the anti-Bush vote.

ROSS PEROT: There's no way I can be a spoiler. It was already spoiled when I started. We had a $4 trillion debt, we had a $400 billion deficit this year. We've got the most violent, crime-ridden society in the industrialised world, the worst public schools. We've got hundreds of thousands of people out of work. We've got 5 per cent of the world's population, 50 per cent of world's cocaine use. I am here as a clean-up man.

PETER THOMPSON: Ross Perot, campaigning for the presidency.