President Bush heads into tonight's second presidential debate with a still daunting challenge: The latest New York Times-CBS News Poll shows that Gov. Bill Clinton retains an undiminished lead and is actually viewed more favorably by the voters despite recent Republican pounding.
The survey, conducted Monday and Tuesday nights, shows that Ross Perot made some gains in the voters' esteem after the first presidential debate Sunday night. But he still lags far behind the two major-party candidates heading into the second confrontation tonight in Richmond.
Less than three weeks before Election Day, Mr. Clinton has the support of 47 percent of the registered voters, compared with 34 percent for Mr. Bush and 10 percent for Mr. Perot. Those standings were statistically unchanged from the Times-CBS poll conducted 10 days ago.
The Democratic nominee continues to be more trusted than his rivals to deal with the central issue of this campaign: 37 percent said Mr. Clinton would "do the best job of solving the country's economic problems," while 29 percent said Mr. Perot would and just 23 percent said Mr. Bush would.
Moreover, 79 percent of the registered voters said their votes were unaffected by Mr. Bush's attacks on Mr. Clinton's anti-war activities while a student at Oxford in the 1960s -- a central Republican theme in recent days. An overwhelming majority of those who said the attacks made them more likely to vote against Mr. Clinton were already Bush supporters.
The survey of 854 registered voters had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. All the respondents had previously been interviewed in late September.