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Who's Afraid of Ross Perot? The Other Two Candidates

By CompiledMax Boot / September 25, 1992



BOSTON

CAMPAIGN strategists at the Clinton-Gore headquarters in Little Rock, Ark., are charged up by their candidate's lead in the polls, but they're not taking anything for granted, reports Monitor staff writer Amy Kaslow. "There are two ways to run an election: scared and unopposed. We're not unopposed," says Skip Rutherford, Gov. Bill Clinton's assistant campaign chairman.

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While many Clinton volunteers are worried about Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot entering the race, campaign organizers like Mr. Rutherford say they are prepared to take it in stride.

"Perot really elevated the issue of public dissatisfaction with Bush. Bill Clinton and Al Gore have given a lot of those people something to vote for rather than something to vote against," he said.

President Bush's spokeswoman, Torie Clarke, also tried to downplay the effect of any last-minute Perot candidacy. "Can we spend all our time worrying about what one person - Ross Perot - is going to do?" Ms. Clarke asked. "No. What can you do? We've been working like crazy to make sure we have the support of [Perot backers] and we have been very successful." Buses, trains, but no planes

In his continuing quest to claim Harry Truman's scrappy legacy, President Bush is scheduled to go on a "whistle-stop tour" through Michigan and Ohio this weekend. Barbara Bush will join the president aboard a train called the "Spirit of America." Mr. Truman's frequent speeches from the back of a train were credited with helping him defeat Republican Thomas Dewey in 1948. But can Bush match his predecessor's 16-speech-a-day pace?

Meanwhile, Governor Clinton and his running mate, Sen. Albert Gore Jr. of Tennessee, spent Wednesday touring by bus through Georgia, in search of the mythical "Bubba' vote. It was the Democratic team's fifth bus tour since July. Clinton was campaigning in New Jersey yesterday; rumor has it that, to get there, he had to break the campaign's unwritten rule against flying. Watch out for the flying mud

The first casualty of war may be the truth, but the first casualty of a presidential campaign must be civility.

Stealing a march from fellow Hoosier David Letterman, Vice President Quayle offered a "Top 10 List of Bill Clinton Flip-Flops." Then President Bush, in refusing to debate Clinton, called the Democrat an "Oxford man" skilled in verbal jousting.

Clinton shot back: "One day I'm a redneck from a little Southern state, the next day I'm an Oxford man. He went to a country day school and prep school in Connecticut, and Yale. Where does he get off looking up to me as an Oxford man?"

For good measure, the governor added, "He ought to stand up and fight for his record rather than dumping on me." Is Bush "chickening out"? One chicken thinks so

President Bush's refusal to accept the debate format proposed by the bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates is sending feathers flying. In an episode reminiscent of Jimmy Carter's battle with a "killer rabbit," the current occupant of the Oval Office is being stalked by a giant chicken.

At most of the president's stops on the campaign trail recently, a character calling himself "Chicken George" shows up to taunt Bush over his rejection of an invitation to debate Clinton. The chicken was arrested at a stop in Greenville, Miss., Tuesday.

But there he was again Wednesday, waiting alongside Bush's motorcade path with a crowd of Clinton fans as the president headed for an afternoon rally on the Penn State campus in State College, Pa.

No word yet on when, or if, the two presidential candidates will debate. The bipartisan commission has canceled a debate scheduled for next week in Louisville, because Bush and Clinton could not agree on a format.