Bush, Clinton to send envoys to Dallas to court Perot group

September 26, 1992|By New York Times News Service

Responding to broad hints that Ross Perot will soon re-enter the presidential race, President Bush and Gov. Bill Clinton said yesterday that they would send emissaries to Dallas Monday to talk to the Texas billionaire's followers. Each group of emissaries will try to convince the gathering that its candidate is the better alternative to a Perot candidacy.

Officials from both the Republican and Democratic campaigns said they had accepted an invitation from Mr. Perot to address a gathering Monday of state leaders of United We Stand, America, the organization Mr. Perot set up and financed after he quit the race -- as an undeclared candidate -- on July 16.

Mr. Bush's representatives will address the group for two hours in the morning. Later that afternoon, the group will hear from Mr. Clinton's emissaries.

The meetings will be closed to reporters and will not be taped. Officials with Mr. Perot's group said the audience would consist of one state coordinator from each of the 50 states. Mr. Perot will also attend the meetings. It is unclear whether the group will take any votes on whether to endorse either Mr. Bush or Mr. Clinton.

Speculation has been rampant that the mercurial Texan would once again make a challenge for the presidency since he said Tuesday that his decision in July to drop out of the race was a "mistake." Mr. Perot also said he wanted the state coordinators of his organization to poll their membership to determine if they wanted him back in the race.

But the executive director of the volunteers' group, Orson Swindle, denied yesterday a report in the Los Angeles Times that Mr. Perot would announce he was resuming his bid for the White House on CNN's "Larry King Live" television show Monday night.

"It's not true," Mr. Swindle said. "The unidentified source is truly unidentified and uninformed."

Further complicating a presidential campaign that has become the most unusual in years and has a little more than five weeks to go, a top Republican on the Commission on Presidential Debates said yesterday that should Mr. Perot enter the race and the president continue his refusal to participate in debates sponsored by the commission, it is possible a debate might take place without Mr. Bush.

"If Bill Clinton agrees and George Bush doesn't agree, it will be just Clinton and Perot Oct. 4 in San Diego," said Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr., the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, who is co-chairman of the commission. Mr. Clinton has already accepted the format set up by the five-member bipartisan commission. President Bush, citing his dislike of the proposed format, has so far declined to participate in any commission-sponsored debates.

Mr. Fahrenkopf said that if Mr. Perot announced Monday, the commission would examine Mr. Perot's candidacy and determine if he met the criteria to be included in the debate. "If he meets the criteria, we have to invite him," Mr. Fahrenkopf said.

Mr. Perot has given no indication that he actually wants to serve as president, or whether his efforts in recent months to get himself on the ballot and in recent days to inject himself into the campaign are all designed to bend the political process to his and his volunteers' will.

He has said recently that he might re-enter the race only to ensure that his campaign commercials are broadcast by the TV networks.

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