Campaign ends with Clinton favored Final day spent in flying search for electoral votes

November 03, 1992|By Jules Witcover | Jules Witcover,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- Hopscotching across key battleground states, President Bush and Gov. Bill Clinton wound up the 1992 campaign with polls indicating Mr. Clinton still holds a comfortable lead among voters, who are expected to turn out in larger-than-usual numbers today.

The president told a suburban Philadelphia crowd yesterday that "we are going to pull off one of the biggest surprises in political history," but a raspy-voiced Mr. Clinton was so confident that he introduced his wife, Hillary, to crowds as "the next first lady."

Mr. Bush's lingering chances of an upset appeared to rest on TC whether the third candidate, independent Ross Perot, who held a raucous rally in Dallas, would be able to take sufficient votes from Mr. Clinton in key states. At the same time, however, the president had to worry whether Mr. Perot might do him in in Texas, the home state they share, which Mr. Bush's strategists admit he must win to be re-elected.

Mr. Perot, dancing on a platform with one of his daughters as a band played his chosen theme song, "Crazy," predicted he would win all 50 states and told his cheering followers, "We're taking your country back." But all the polls suggested he wasn't likely to win any states.

The Gallup Organization poll for CNN and USA Today, which had shown Mr. Bush moving to within 1 percentage point of Mr. Clinton five days ago, 41 percent to 40 percent, with 14 percent for Mr. Perot, had the president falling back yesterday to a deficit of 8 percentage points, 44 percent to 36 percent. Mr. Perot's support remained steady, and 6 percent were undecided. The Gallup sample was 1,529 likely voters with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

When the poll yesterday allocated the undecided voters on the assumption that most voters who are undecided this late vote against the incumbent, it gave Mr. Clinton 5 of the 6 percentage points and lifted its figures to 49 percent for Mr. Clinton, 37 percent for Mr. Bush.

The Gallup numbers, not counting the undecideds, square with those of the other major polls for the television networks and major newspapers. Gallup's average error on the winner's vote over the past five presidential elections has been only 1.6 percentage points. It has picked the winner in every election since 1952 except 1976, when it had President Gerald R. Ford ahead of Jimmy Carter by 1 percentage point but said the election was "too close to call."

The candidates' final full day of campaigning reflected the hunt for electoral votes, with most calculations indicating Mr. Clinton leading for well more than the 270 needed for election. The Arkansas governor is considered to have a lock or a comfortable lead in eight of the 10 largest electoral-vote states and to be within hailing distance of Mr. Bush in the other two -- Florida and Texas. Hence, Mr. Bush needs a patchwork of many smaller states to win -- a very tall order that seems all but unattainable now.

Mr. Clinton undertook yesterday a 4,100-mile flying odyssey to eight states from Pennsylvania to Texas and up to Colorado before heading for home in Arkansas early today. Mr. Bush, meanwhile, touched down in six states from New Jersey to Texas, where he will spend election night in Houston.

Vice President Dan Quayle started his final campaign day in Tennessee and then jet-hopped through his native Midwest -- Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin, all battleground states -- before winding up in his home state of Indiana. To the end, he insisted that "we're out of the recession" -- a case that has been particularly hard to make in this economically troubled region.

Mr. Clinton's running mate, Tenn. Sen. Al Gore, hit seven states from Georgia to Missouri before heading for a rally in Nashville. He said today's election was "a chance to reach out . . . to a new generation of fresh ideas and energy."

Turnout, which has been dropping steadily in presidential elections since John F. Kennedy's victory over Richard M. Nixon in 1960 and fell to just below 50 percent of the eligible voting-age population four years ago, is expected to go up today. The reason is a surge of new-voter registration, possibly spurred by the candidate exposure on television talk shows this year and a record viewership of the campaign debates.

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