Heartened by polls, Clinton stresses economic issues Candidate tries to get past marital infidelity reports

January 29, 1992|By Knight-Ridder News Service

HOUSTON -- Buoyed by polls showing that his support appears to have stopped its slide, Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton barnstormed through Texas yesterday, trying to shift attention back to the issues and away from allegations of marital infidelity.

"I'm running on my life's work -- not my life's story," Mr. Clinton said.

During stops in three cities, he said repeatedly that voters were more interested in the economy and other domestic issues than the supermarket tabloid allegations of a 12-year affair with part-time cabaret singer Gennifer Flowers, an Arkansas state employee.

"There's a recession on, and there's no end to the people who will pay cash for trash," Mr. Clinton said. "You pay enough money, and you can get anyone to say anything."

Mr. Clinton and his wife, Hillary, went on the offensive Sunday night on "60 Minutes," denying he had an affair with Ms. Flowers but admitting to past difficulties in their marriage. His appearance may have been prompted by a New Hampshire poll that showed an abrupt 12-point slide in his support, leaving him tied with former Sen. Paul E. Tsongas of Massachusetts.

But a later poll by the American Research Group, conducted Sunday afternoon, showed Mr. Clinton holding steady at 26 percent and Mr. Tsongas at 27 percent.

However, a Boston Globe survey indicated that Mr. Clinton may have been hurt by Ms. Flowers' news conference and release of edited tapes of phone conversations in New York on Monday afternoon.

The first 400 people sampled by the Globe were called Monday afternoon before the evening news shows, and 132 voters -- about 33 percent -- said they favored Mr. Clinton after his "60 Minutes" appearance. However, 229 more calls made after Ms. Flowers' tapes were played showed that Mr. Clinton's support had dropped to about 25 percent of those surveyed.

An overnight ABC News poll found that 66 percent of the voters surveyed said they would vote for a candidate who had had an extramarital affair. However, 33 percent said Mr. Clinton should quit the race if he had an affair with Ms. Flowers, most of them because Mr. Clinton had denied it.

Mr. Clinton said he had not listened to the edited and sometimes garbled tapes Ms. Flowers claims to have made of their telephone conversations.

Mr. Clinton was greeted enthusiastically by supporters in San Antonio, Austin and Houston. His campaign announced more than 50 endorsements from Texas politicians as proof that his campaign had not been stalled by the charges.

The most fervent response came at a rally held at the Texas Capitol in Austin.

"I don't know about you, but I want a strong man for president, not a god," Texas House Speaker Pro Tem Wilhelmina Delco said in her introduction. The line drew sustained cheers.

Several people in the crowds, including those who said they had not decided whether to support Mr. Clinton, said they did not believe the charges of infidelity would affect their feeling about his candidacy.

"Maybe if I was his wife," said Judith Manriquez, a college student in Austin. "But he's not going to be in my bedroom; he's going to be in the White House. I want to know where he stands on the issues."

But Teresa Hersh said Mr. Clinton's television appearance had left her with a few doubts. "I wish he'd been a little less evasive," she said.

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