Ambivalence fills halls while hyperbole reigns



NEW YORK -- Democrats greeted the latest poll results yesterday with the kind of ambivalence that seems characteristic of this convention. On one hand, they were pleased with news that a New York Times-CBS News survey found Bill Clinton running essentially even with President Bush and independent Ross Perot clearly slipping.

But some older and wiser heads were shaking at the fact that Mr. Clinton still has negative ratings higher than positive ratings even after the favorable attention to his vice presidential choice. Said a prominent Democratic officeholder: "Don't quote me, but this is not the stuff of a landslide, maybe not even a squeaker."

The poll found that if the election were held today, Mr. Bush would get 33 percent of the vote, Mr. Clinton 30 percent and Mr. Perot 25 percent. And the president was rated favorably by only 30 percent compared with an unfavorable rating of 43 percent, ordinarily the stuff of political disaster.

But Mr. Clinton's positives to negatives were only 20 percent to ++ 31 percent, a ratio that was similar to that for the freshly-scarred Mr. Perot.

* Hyperbole is never in short supply at any gathering of politicians, but Sen. Al Gore may have retired the cup for this convention on the very first day when he followed Rep. Lee H. Hamilton of Indiana, erstwhile rival for the vice presidential nomination, to the podium at a meeting of the American Israel Political Action Committee.

The Tennessee senator waxed enthusiastic about how "honored" he had been to be chosen by Mr. Clinton and then added there was "no greater honor than being mentioned in the same breath with Lee Hamilton."

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