President Bush's gains from the Republican National Convention have almost completely evaporated, as four days in the spotlight failed to establish his commitment to change or his ideas for ending the recession, the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll shows.
Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas re-established a strong lead, holding a 51 percent to 36 percent edge in the poll taken Sunday and Monday, or about the same margin he held before last week's convention.
The poll showed the public had far more interest in hearing about his favorite issues, the economy and health care, than in topics featured at the convention, such as family values and homosexuality.
The survey of 903 registered voters also provided fresh evidence of the loose allegiances of voters this year, showing that large numbers of men, young people, the poor and the financially comfortable all shifted back and forth in the past two weeks. Men, for example, had supported Mr. Bush by 47 percent to 40 percent in a Times/CBS News Poll taken last Thursday as the convention ended. By the time of this poll, they supported Mr. Clinton by 51 percent to 38 percent.
Their shift accounted for most of the change between the two polls, as the earlier one favored Mr. Clinton, but only by 45 to 42 percent overall.
Robert M. Teeter, chairman of Mr. Bush's re-election campaign and a leading Republican poll taker for a quarter century, said he thought the results were more favorable to Mr. Clinton than was actually true.
Mr. Teeter said his campaign had done no fresh polling since the convention, but he thought "usually you will not lose what you gained" from a convention. "My view is the race is about 50 to 40," he said.
Stan Greenberg, Mr. Clinton's poll taker, said his latest data did indicate a double-digit Mr. Clinton lead that "re-emerged immediately after Bush's speech." He said Mr. Bush had created high expectations for his acceptance speech but did not meet them.
Yesterday, Mr. Bush used economic issues to hammer away at his opponents.
Mr. Bush ventured into the back yard of the U.S. automobile industry to depict his Democratic rivals as environmental extremists whose policies would throw thousands of Michigan residents out of work.
Under rain clouds at an outdoor rally in Canton that is home to both laid-off General Motors workers and affluent executives, Mr. Bush decried Mr. Clinton's support of a proposal to raise auto fuel efficiency standards to 40 miles a gallon by the turn of the century from the current 27.5.
And he contended that the governor started with a bad environmental record in Arkansas and then moved too far in the other direction.
"He's gone all the way over from that lousy record now to becoming bright green," Mr. Bush told thousands of cheering supporters at the Canton Township Heritage Park west of Detroit. "He's turned that bright, and if Clinton has his way, Michigan auto workers are going to be turning green with illness."
Citing figures from a motor vehicle industry group, Mr. Bush said that in Michigan alone, "40,000 workers would go from the assembly line to the unemployment line if we go from those ridiculous standards."
With Bush campaign aides describing Michigan as a crucial battleground in November, Mr. Bush found a receptive site for his warnings about tighter fuel standards.