Clinton campaigns across Pa. Crowds provide warm response

July 19, 1992|By John Fairhall | John Fairhall,Staff Writer

YORK, Pa. -- Bill Clinton's presidential campaign rolled through southern Pennsylvania yesterday in a classic example of campaigning, American-style.

For the crowds that waited patiently outside Mr. Clinton's hotel, there was no substitute for seeing the candidate in person.

It didn't matter that they had seen him on television. They wanted to size him up for themselves, maybe shake his hand or get an autograph from a man who might be the next president of the United States.

And when Mr. Clinton appeared with his running mate, Al Gore, and their wives, the crowd's pent-up excitement exploded in cheers and calls: "Over here, Bill!" and "Al!" and "Tipper!" and "Hillary!"

Those who were rewarded with a handshake squealed with delight, making the event seem like a Hollywood premiere and Mr. Clinton a movie star.

And there was more of the same when the Clinton campaign's bus caravan pulled into the All American Truck Plaza in Carlisle, Pa., for a rally attended by at least 2,000 mostly supportive people.

They surged against restraining ropes when Mr. Clinton, who loves in-the-flesh campaigning, responded by trying to shake every hand thrust at him and acknowledge every greeting.

Even though presidential candidates run mostly on television these days, American-style campaigning is still important. Mr. Clinton is getting his fill of it as he proceeds cross-country on a six-day bus trip that started Friday in New York and will end Wednesday in St. Louis.

Fresh from their convention success, Mr. Clinton and Mr. Gore are beginning their campaign together by castigating the Bush administration, presenting their own plans and appealing to supporters of Ross Perot to join them now that he has dropped out.

The huge news-media entourage accompanying them is keeping them in the nation's eye.

The candidates began the day dressed casually, as if, like the people they met, they were just doing Saturday things.

Mr. Clinton wore a teal short-sleeve shirt and sneakers, Mr. Gore blue jeans, a dark green polo shirt and casual shoes.

In Carlisle, some in the mostly working-class crowd had been waiting since 6 a.m. to see the candidates.

Anti-abortion protesters were present, as they have been at other Pennsylvania campaign stops, but they contented themselves with holding signs and protesting silently.

Pennsylvania Sen. Harris Wofford and Lt. Gov. Mark Singel joined the candidates, who generally oppose restrictions on abortion, but not Gov. Robert P. Casey, who pushed restrictive legislation through the state legislature.

Mr. Clinton's speech stressed the need for change, for parents to assure a future for their children, for jobs, for "a real education presidency."

At one point, he got into the cab of a truck driven by Richard Bauer, 33, of Wisconsin, and sat behind the wheel while the cameras shot his picture. Mr. Bauer, however, turned out to be an undecided voter who opposes abortion. Partly for that reason, he said, he might not support Mr. Clinton.

"I'd rather see someone who has more religious values," Mr. Bauer added.

One of those attending the Carlisle rally was an Elvis impersonator, Ronnie Allyn, of Harrisburg. "I like [Clinton] because he's . . . an Elvis fan," Mr. Allyn said. "Plus, the fact that his wife looks like one of my favorite actresses, Terri Garr."

As an afterthought, he added, "And I like what he stands for, too."

Mr. Clinton and Mr. Gore concluded their stop in Carlisle with a three-hole game of miniature golf. When asked what miniature golf at truck stops had to do with his campaign message, Mr. Clinton said: "This is what Americans do. This is a campaign aimed straight at the heart of America."

Mr. Clinton was asked whether he preferred miniature golf to football. Before he could answer, Mr. Gore broke in, "That's the kind of false choice that Bush and Quayle have been presenting to this country."

"That's right," Mr. Clinton immediately added. "We're going to give America a country where people can play football and miniature golf."

Mr. Clinton played down polls showing him leading Mr. Bush by as much as 24 percentage points. "This is going to be a tough race," Mr. Clinton said.

"These guys, the Republicans, have held on to the White House for a generation because they were good at getting people to vote against their opponents and run the best negative campaigns in the world.

Many people outside their hotel in York and at Carlisle said they had already made up their minds to support the Clinton-Gore ticket, for varying reasons.

Some cited Mr. Clinton's position on abortion. Some said his proposals for broader health insurance coverage had swayed them. Some said it was the Democratic candidates' youth. Still others said they had given up hope that President Bush would ever pursue changes they believe are needed.

"I'm pro-choice," said Eleanor Weigle, 51, of Camp Hill, Pa. "I think the Clinton-Gore ticket is needed to bring about the social [reforms] that the Reagan-Bush years ignored."

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