Senior Adviser Insists the Mood Of Bush Campaign Isn't Too Black

SENIOR campaign adviser to President Bush says the presidential race is closer than it looks, reports Monitor staff writer John Dillin.

Charles Black told reporters at a Monitor breakfast yesterday that, nationally, Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas holds approximately a 10-point lead over Mr. Bush. However, after factoring out New York and California, where Governor Clinton's leads are huge, Bush trails by only about 5 or 6 percent in the rest of the United States.

Mr. Black says a six-point margin could be quickly closed by a barrage of advertising, and by the impact of several Bush-Clinton debates over the next four weeks.

Bush campaign strategists insist that the president's political base in the South, Rocky Mountains, and the Great Plains states is coming together as the race moves into its final month. The critical battleground, they say, will be in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions. Perot's fiscal austerity

Ross Perot has been spending lots of money on his campaign - but there are some things he refuses to pay for.

First the spending: the Texas billionaire, dogged by allegations that he has a penchant for spying on friends and enemies alike, reportedly hired a San Francisco private detective agency for $76,000 in August. According to CBS News, which first reported the move, the Callahan & Gibbons Group was used to investigate the backgrounds of leaders of Mr. Perot's "volunteer" campaign.

The Perot campaign acknowledges hiring the private eyes, but says they were used only to look into allegations that some volunteers stole money from the campaign or had criminal records. Some volunteer leaders, however, charge that they were accused of improper past behavior and were intimidated out of the campaign.

What Perot doesn't spend money on: phone lines to register the opinions of those who disagree with him. About 2 million people have called Perot headquarters in Dallas on a toll-free hot line. But there's no way of knowing how many of those callers were urging the diminutive billionaire to run for office and how many wanted him to stay out. Explains Perot: "I'm a businessman. I'm not going to pay for the phone call for some fella that says, `Don't do it.' " Debate debate continues

Bush and Clinton are still jawing over how their debates ought to be organized. But they've finally bypassed the Commission on Presidential Debates in favor of direct negotiations. Top advisers to the two candidates met for nearly four hours Wednesday night and convened again Thursday morning. By agreement, the two camps did not provide details. Family feud

It's a good thing the two sides are talking, because it turns out they have a lot more in common than usually supposed. Clinton and Bush, says a British genealogist, may be distantly related.

Harold Brooks-Baker, publisher of "Burke's Peerage," says both candidates had ancestors in Gotham, a tiny village in central England. He says Gotham was so small and isolated hundreds of years ago that everyone was related to everyone else.

Gotham was known as a village of idiots back then. Legend has it that the people acted like fools to scare away the king's tax collectors. Mr. Brooks-Baker isn't saying whether the candidates' ancestors were among those ancient tax dodgers. As for being descended from idiots.... Well, each voter will have to decide that for himself.

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