Carbondale, Ill. — Sen. Paul Simon of Illinois joined the wide-open contest for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination Monday, saying his bow-tie image is right for voters tired of candidates ``slickly packaged like some new soft drink.'' ``I haven't tried to do what is temporarily popular or politically fashionable or what will raise campaign funds,'' Senator Simon told a crowd of 1,500 cheering supporters, many sporting the silver bow-tie pins that are his campaign's trademark. ``You get what you see and hear.''
Simon made his announcement at Southern Illinois University, near his hometown of Makanda.
Conceding he is a little-known long shot, Simon said he was buoyed by polls showing he has gained strength since front-runner Gary Hart dropped from the race.
``We're still way behind, but we're moving. We're ahead of most of the others who have been out there a long time.''
Simon insisted he is ready for the kind of scrutiny that drove Hart from the race. ``I've been in a fishbowl for a long time, and I understand what that's all about,'' he said.
In what will be a theme of his campaign, Simon refered repeatedly to President Harry Truman, noting that Truman also was an underdog.
After his formal announcement, Simon flew to Iowa for a series of campaign stops.
In his announcement, Simon harkened back to traditional Democratic themes.
``I stand here as one who is not running away from the Democratic tradition of caring and daring and dreaming,'' he said. ``I do not join those who want the Democratic Party to forget its heritage in order to become more acceptable to the wealthy and powerful.''
Aides said Simon, who is little known outside Illinois, must score well in early tests in order to establish himself as a credible candidate.
Deputy campaign manager John Fitzpatrick said Simon's folksy approach sells well among small groups of voters, a major strength when early tests are in small and rural states.
``We need to come in first or second, or finish in the first tier of candidates'' in the early tests, Mr. Fitzpatrick said. ``I don't think the media or the public interest can sustain more than about four or five candidates for very long. There has to be a weeding-out process.''
Simon was born in Eugene, Ore., but has spent most of his life in southern Illinois. He ran a chain of small newspapers before being elected to the Illinois legislature and later lieutenant governor.
He was elected to Congress in 1974, and reelected four times before he unseated incumbent Republican Sen. Charles Percy in 1984.