Perot about to get onto 50th state ballot

September 16, 1992|By Jules Witcover | Jules Witcover,Staff Writer

LOS ANGELES -- Unfazed by their hero's mid-July retreat as an undeclared presidential candidate, supporters of Texas billionaire Ross Perot are getting ready to celebrate a unique political achievement -- filing of an independent candidacy in all 50 states.

That feat, according to Bob Hayden, a Ventura engineer who heads the Perot "United We Stand America" grass-roots effort in California, should be accomplished by week's end with the addition of the last state, Arizona.

The achievement falls far short, however, of the grandiose hopes of Mr. Hayden and the millions of others who took Mr. Perot at his word earlier this year when he told them he would run if they got him onto the ballot in all 50 states.

For all that, though, Mr. Hayden, a member of the movement's national steering committee, and Orson Swindle of Hawaii, its chairman, based in Dallas, say they are neither bitter nor disillusioned at Mr. Perot's decision to abandon an active candidacy. They say they still hold out hope that if the two major-party nominees don't straighten up and fly right, their hero might yet make a late-inning entry into the race.

They acknowledge that they have no evidence that such a move is in the cards. Still, Mr. Perot has been bankrolling a substantial portion of the cost of getting his name on the ballot in 50 states -- "in almost half the states since he pulled out," says Mr. Swindle. According to Mr. Hayden, 64 "United We Stand America" offices are operating in the country, 16 of them here in California, with Mr. Hayden and Mr. Swindle both full-time salaried directors.

Mr. Perot, speaking on ABC News' "Good Morning America" yesterday, acknowledged that he was still spending a half-million dollars a month supporting the movement. And he continued to hint that unsatisfactory answers from the two major-party candidates might force him back into the presidential contest.

Mr. Perot's comments came against the backdrop of a new CBS/New York Times poll that gave him 14 percent of the vote nationally to 42 percent for Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton and 34 percent for President Bush. And a Los Angeles Times poll of California voters gave him 17 percent, to 49 percent for Mr. Clinton and 28 percent for Mr. Bush.

The focus on the grass-roots effort now, both Mr. Hayden and Mr. Swindle say, is trying to get Mr. Bush, Mr. Clinton and all candidates for the House and Senate to face up to Mr. Perot's prime objectives: erasing the federal deficit and reforming political campaigns.

In an interview that appears in today's Los Angeles Times, Mr. Perot held out the possibility that "United We Stand, America," might endorse Mr. Clinton if the Democratic nominee does confront the politically explosive federal deficit issue.

But neither Mr. Hayden or Mr. Swindle is very optimistic that Mr. Bush or Mr. Clinton will embrace the Perot agenda. They say the reinvigoration of the Democratic Party that Mr. Perot professed to see at the time he quit the race -- and cited as a reason for his action -- has vanished in a sea of mud-slinging.

It appears here in California that the "United We Stand America" movement isn't nearly as intimidating without Mr. Perot marching conspicuously in front of it as a candidate. Last Sunday, Mr. Hayden says, 600 Perot supporters attended a candidates' forum in San Jose, but neither Mr. Bush nor Mr. Clinton showed up.

Mr. Hayden points to another recent poll by Los Angeles television station KCAL indicating it may still be critical: 15 percent for Mr. Perot in California to 39 percent for Mr. Clinton and 35 for Mr. Bush. With Mr. Perot out, the Arkansas governor leads by 48-38, suggesting most Perot voters now favor him over the president. The Los Angeles Times survey, however, indicates the Perot vote is splitting about evenly between the major-party nominees.

"But right now," Mr. Hayden says, "I'm not urging anyone to vote for anyone." Mr. Perot is on the California ballot after having written a letter requested by state election officials stating that he remains a presidential candidate.

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