DALLAS -- In an exuberant finale to his brief and unconventional campaign, presidential candidate Ross Perot turned pure showman yesterday, rousing a lightly attended hometown rally with song and dance and some of his greatest rhetorical hits.
Wallowing in being called "crazy" by political opponents and pundits, the Texas businessman interrupted his noontime address to ask a Dixieland band to strike up the Patsy Cline hit "Crazy," declaring it his theme song, and grabbed his youngest daughter, Katherine, for a spin on the podium.
"There are millions of crazy people in the country," he said in a sarcastic reference to his supporters. "Tomorrow, I bet it's going to be a crazy day at the polls, right?"
At the close of his upbeat rally at Dallas' Reunion Arena, he asked for song after song including an encore of his new "theme song." And the colorful candidate, known around town for his jitterbug prowess, danced with each of his four daughters and his wife, Margot, as the crowd cheered.
"We've got the buses lined up outside to take you all back to the insane asylum," he said, continuing the "crazy" theme in front of about 3,000 supporters who barely made a dent in the downtown arena.
Yesterday's musical rally capped a weekend of campaigning for the independent candidate who trails the front-runner, Bill Clinton, by about 30 percentage points, and George Bush by about 20 points, in national polls. It marked the first time he's made a public appearance in the city where he lives and built his billion-dollar businesses since last spring, when he attended a picnic here during the petition drive phase of his on-again, off-again campaign.
But ironically, yesterday's hometown rally was the least well-attended of the half-dozen events he's staged since rejoining the campaign last month, an apparent indication of his slow but steady decline in the polls in the last week.
On election eve, even the feisty candidate's attacks on his opponents were more lighthearted and less pungent than in earlier addresses. He called Bill Clinton "the chicken man," echoing his latest TV commercial, which mocks Arkansas's large poultry industry, and telling the crowd to tune in to the two hours of air time -- all reruns of his half-hour spots -- that were spread among all three networks last night.
Over and over again, he called himself a "stray dog with fleas and ticks" -- even promising to get himself "dipped" before moving in to the White House -- in contrast to the trained and pedigreed political animals with whom he went head to head during the debates. "One of them was like one of these dolls that you pull a string and get a message," he said, adding that the two other candidates were wearing all kinds of makeup "including lipstick" for the debates.
And in presenting himself as the only logical alternative in an era when economic concerns are paramount, Mr. Perot pointed to the current difficulties of General Motors, of which he was principal stockholder in the mid-'80s, as a metaphor for this country.
"Isn't it a paradox that as we have this last rally in Dallas, a GM board meeting is being held to try to save our largest corporation from financial disaster," said the businessman, who left GM after being bought out for $750 million. "I put my body across the railroad track and begged to fix it while there was still time. I have done the same thing this year."
But even while his supporters, too, talked of victory and November surprises, there were hints that they might have been looking beyond today's results. "Let's say he doesn't win on Tuesday," said Mary Lee Pippin, a Dallas real estate investor. "You can look for him to win in four years."