Kerry, Bush bringing out their big guns

Clinton electric in Pa.

Giuliani at Colo. rally

On The Stump

Election 2004

October 26, 2004|By Julie Hirschfeld Davis | Julie Hirschfeld Davis,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

PHILADELPHIA - Cutting short his convalescence to lend his star power to John Kerry in the critical closing days of the tight presidential race, Bill Clinton accused Republicans yesterday of trying to "scare undecided voters" and to frighten Kerry's backers into staying away from the polls, as he stumped for the Democrat in this key swing state.

"From time to time, I have been called the comeback kid. In eight days, John Kerry's going to make America the comeback country," the former president told a roaring, flag-waving crowd estimated at up to 100,000 people, which stretched several blocks down John F. Kennedy Boulevard. "I know well that no one's presence can change a single vote, but I hope my reasons can affect a few votes."

Clinton, his face paler, frame frailer and voice weaker just seven weeks after heart bypass surgery, nevertheless electrified the crowd when he took the stage with Kerry in a blizzard of confetti.

"If this isn't good for my heart, I don't know what is," a beaming Clinton said, taking the podium after nearly five minutes of sustained cheering.

Clinton's appearance came as Kerry is working to stoke enthusiasm and spur turnout among black voters, a group that opinion polls show is not as supportive of Kerry as of past Democratic candidates.

Later in the day, Clinton, who is wildly popular among blacks, joined Kerry in a conference call with about 2,000 African-American religious leaders that was designed to launch a huge get-out-the-vote effort in their communities.

"One of Clinton's laws of politics is this: If one candidate's trying to scare you and the other one's trying to get you to think, if one candidate's appealing to your fears and the other one's appealing to your hopes, you better vote for the person who wants you to think and hope," Clinton said at the rally, reprising a line that Kerry has been using - albeit less concisely - during campaign stops in recent weeks.

Clinton's appearance came as Kerry and President Bush sought to close the deal with voters by cloaking themselves in the popularity of some of the outsized personalities in American politics.

"Isn't it great to have Bill Clinton back on the trail?" Kerry exulted before the crowd, which was armed with signs that said "8 More Days to a Fresh Start."

Just hours before the senator wrapped his arm around Clinton here, Bush was campaigning with Rudolph W. Giuliani in Greeley, Colo. The former New York mayor, whose popularity soared in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, received applause as loud as - or louder than - that for Bush at a morning rally in an area of northern Colorado that Bush won handily four years ago.

"We have to re-elect President Bush," Giuliani said, warming up the crowd. "We can't take the chance of going back to where we were before Sept. 11, with someone who can't seem to make up his mind about whether terrorism is serious or a nuisance."

Each candidate's choice of celebrity campaign partner fit with the dominant theme of his presidential bid. Kerry, who has emphasized his economic agenda and domestic plans, appeared with a former president who presided over the longest economic expansion in American history.

Bush, who has said that terrorism is the overriding issue in the race, joined with Giuliani who came to personify his city's - and later the country's - valiant response to the Sept. 11 attacks.

In the coming days, movie star-turned-California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected to campaign for Bush in the swing state of Ohio.

And rocker Jon Bon Jovi, one of several musicians and artists who have thrown their talent, money and support behind Kerry's presidential bid, fired up a rally at a community college outside Detroit last night as supporters waited to hear from the Massachusetts senator.

Clinton, whose love for politics and the limelight is well-known, has tentative plans - health permitting, Democratic officials say - to stump for Kerry this weekend in Nevada and New Mexico, after a stop today in Florida, one of the most hotly contested states. Clinton is to return Sunday to his native Arkansas, where polls show Bush leading Kerry by an unexpectedly small margin, and where the senator's aides think he has a chance to win.

The former president has been advising Kerry behind the scenes in frequent telephone calls. His influence on the senator's closing campaign message could be detected yesterday as Clinton laid out for voters what he called "a clear choice between two strong men with great convictions and different philosophies, different policies with very different consequences."

Kerry has been using similar language and stressing the same themes in recent days, as he has launched what campaign strategists call the "closing arguments" of his campaign.

Clinton was introduced by Philadelphia Mayor John Street, who called him "the last duly elected president."

A sea of people and a phalanx of photographers surrounded the stage where Clinton and Kerry spoke, the throngs stretching far into the distance to Robert Indiana's famous LOVE sculpture outside City Hall. Two giant American flags hoisted by cranes served as a backdrop, and loud voices echoed from surrounding buildings.

Kerry plans visits to Wisconsin, Nevada and New Mexico today, to Iowa and Minnesota tomorrow, and to Ohio on Thursday.

Sun staff writer David L. Greene, traveling with the Bush campaign, contributed to this article.

ELECTION 2004

THE COUNTDOWN

7 days until Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 2

ON THE TRAIL

PRESIDENT BUSH Will visit Onalaska, Richland Center and Cuba City in Wisconsin and Dubuque, Iowa, today.

JOHN KERRY will visit Green Bay, Wis.; Las Vegas; Albuquerque, N.M.; and Sioux City, Iowa.

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