Clinton to jet to 8 states in final blitz Candidate fights voice problems

November 02, 1992|By John Fairhall | John Fairhall,Staff Writer

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Guided by an Electoral College map, Gov. Bill Clinton jets off today on a marathon trip to eight battleground states where tomorrow's election may be decided.

The 4,000-mile, 29-hour blitz is intended to help secure a victory that confident Clinton aides feel is within their grasp. The campaign also bought a half-hour of time on three networks tonight.

About the only thing that has Clinton aides anxious is his voice, reduced to a whispery croak at times yesterday. He was unable to speak at length and relied on others, including his wife, to make the case for voting for him.

"I want you to remember we fought for a year; we've got two days to go," Mr. Clinton said yesterday morning at a rally in Cincinnati, his voice sounding like an aged Don Corleone's in "The Godfather."

"Fight on, don't give up," he added in the 21-second speech, surely the shortest he has given. He turned the microphone over to his wife, Hillary, who has pinch-hit for him before when his voice, plagued by allergies, laryngitis and overuse, has given out.

Despite that problem, the day began with good omens. He received a spiritual blessing at the Tryed Stone Baptist Church in Cincinnati, and an unexpected gift while shaking voters' hands. A man identifying himself as a Vietnam War veteran gave him his Distinguished Service medal.

Mr. Clinton, haunted by conflicting accounts of his draft record during that war, embraced the man, and tears appeared to well up in his eyes.

He then flew to two other big states, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, that Republicans also won easily in 1988 but that Mr. Clinton believes he can take. He made stops in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and later in East Rutherford, where he participated in a get-out-the-vote rally at the Brendan Byrne Arena. It featured appearances by musicians Wynton Marsalis and Thelonious Monk Jr., actors Glenn Close and Richard Gere and the Nuclear Whales rock group.

For his final event of the day, Mr. Clinton was planning to speak at the Garden State Race Track in Cherry Hill, N.J., where earlier this week a horse named Bubba Clinton won at 17-to-1 odds.

About 2,000 people, including Democratic Senate candidate Lynn Yeakel and Sen. Harris Wofford, greeted Mr. Clinton at the airport outside Wilkes-Barre and spoke on his behalf before he gave a short talk.

"My wife's family is from here," he said, making the kind of local connection candidates try to do while traveling far from home.

"I got into this race because I was tired of seeing people in my state, who are a lot like you, working harder for less. I was tired of seeing 100,000 Americans a month lose their health insurance. I was tired of seeing America squander its opportunity and run the risk of being the first generation of Americans to do worse than their parents. It does not have to be that way," said Mr. Clinton, never mentioning Mr. Bush.

Although he barely spoke in Cincinnati at a tailgate party before the Cincinnati Bengals-Cleveland Browns game, Mr. Clinton and adviser Paul Begala played catch with a football.

Some of their passes wobbled, but the scene was picture perfect for the forest of television cameras filming it -- which was the whole point.

Like his schedule yesterday, the itinerary today is designed to maximize local news exposure in states Mr. Clinton is trying to win. It doesn't matter that he can't speak for long. A visit by a presidential candidate -- especially one considered to be winning -- dominates the local news, sending the message to voters that he cares enough to come.

Local television camera crews greet him upon his arrival, no matter how late, and set up early to cover morning stops.

Although he is visiting nine cities, he expects coverage in 14 media markets, which is made possible by visiting places like Paducah, Ky., not far from television stations and newspapers in nearby Illinois, Tennessee and Missouri.

In addition to Paducah and Philadelphia, he will visit Cleveland, Detroit, St. Louis, McAllen and Fort Worth in Texas, Albuquerque, N.M., and Denver.

Mr. Clinton won't have time to do more than speak at airports, a departure from his practice of venturing into a community. It will be "a lot of frenzied motion, a lot of campaigning," Mr. Begala said, and it will drive home the message "to all Americans that we're fighting for them."

"As you know, we've resisted that in the campaign," he said of airport-only appearances. "There's just no other way in the closing days."

The schedule reflects Mr. Clinton's up-to-the-minute electoral vote priorities, based on the latest polls, both public surveys and ones his campaign conducts. By including two stops in Texas but none in Florida, the campaign signaled its belief that Mr. Clinton has a better chance in Mr. Bush's home state, which analysts say he must win to be re-elected, than in Florida.

"It's close," Mr. Begala said of Texas. "That's why we're going back there."

He insisted the race was going to be tight overall. "We wouldn't be standing out here on a cold, rainy day if we didn't think this race is going to be close," Mr. Begala said, describing the Cincinnati weather.

But Clinton aides drew fresh confidence from polls showing him still in the lead, especially in states with the electoral votes needed to win. "I think there's an emerging consensus in the [public] polls, and that's also reflected in our polls," said press secretary Dee Dee Myers.

Mr. Begala predicted a "massive turnout," which many analysts believe would benefit Mr. Clinton. He based his view on figures showing an increase in registration rates, the large audience for the televised presidential debates and the numbers of people who already have voted in Texas, which permits ballots to be cast before the election.

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