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Stunned Backers Seeking Answers To Perot Pullout

Incipient presidential candidate pulled out before making public his positions on issues

By Scott PendletonStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / July 20, 1992



AUSTIN, TEXAS

ROSS PEROT will try to remain a "moral force" for governmental reform, while many of his erstwhile supporters hope to become a "swing vote" in the presidential election.

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Those decisions came out of meetings over the weekend between Mr. Perot and 30 state coordinators of the petition drives to put his name on the ballot.

The state coordinators hastily arranged to meet with Perot in Dallas on Saturday following the billionaire businessman's abrupt announcement Thursday that he would not become a candidate for president.

However, before the meetings could take place, some of Perot's supporters had already endorsed one or the other major-party candidates, while his volunteers in Georgia quickly transformed themselves into a new political party.

Those actions call into question the likelihood that Perot's supporters - who are said by his volunteer staff to have numbered 4 million - will remain a cohesive political force.

Since Perot never announced his positions, all that his supporters can be certain that they shared were enthusiasm for a Perot candidacy and dissatisfaction with the political status quo.

Now one of those two things has been taken away. Over the weekend, the state coordinators intended to read the just-completed positions to see if they provide a platform for unity.

"We don't have any candidate anymore, but we still have the issues," said Jim Davis, a volunteer from Georgia. On Friday, the Perot organization there formed the American Independence Party to address the federal deficit, American competitiveness, health care, education, and the income tax system.

"We feel like that we're entitled to have those plans that Ross Perot had people working on," Mr. Davis said. "The famed issues that he was supposed to be studying. We want that,... assuming that the suggestions are good."

Perot volunteers were aghast at how their captain had scrambled into a lifeboat while calling over his shoulder for them to keep bailing.

"You can't believe the personal sacrifice that a lot of these folks made," said Miller Hicks, an Austin businessman. As regional coordinator for the drive to put Perot on the ballot in Texas, Mr. Hicks orchestrated the parade and ceremony in which Perot turned in three times the needed signatures and vowed not to disappoint his volunteers.

Last week Hicks flew to Dallas expecting to be offered and to accept the job as state director of the Perot for president campaign. Instead, he watched as Perot delivered the stunning news.

Back in Austin on Friday, Hicks's volunteers told anguished callers to write or fax Perot to urge him to reconsider. Hicks said he didn't believe that Perot would, but he wanted to give the callers something therapeutic to do. "Turmoil" raged in the Perot campaign's Houston, Texas, office, said volunteer John McCorquodale. Callers "are not accepting this. They want Ross Perot or they want another candidate. They're very bluntly saying this," he said. Major backer upset

After helping to amass 55,000 petitions in Houston to put Perot on the Texas ballot, Mr. McCorquodale was personally upset that Perot pulled the rip cord. "I've been working here from nine in the morning to six or seven o'clock at night," he said.

But he would much rather vote for Perot than tar and feather him. "I still believe that if he was president that he could solve the deficit," McCorquodale said. "I really truly believe he will change his mind."

That wouldn't interest Davis, who now considers Perot to lack credibility. "If he came back tomorrow, I don't think the people would take him back. There may be some group of supporters who would, but I don't think the country would vote for him."