WASHINGTON — ROSS PEROT, the TV star of the 1992 campaign, goes on prime-time network television again tonight with the beginning of a new, three-day effort to accelerate his drive for the White House.
Mr. Perot, whose 30-minute "infomercials" are drawing as many as 20 million viewers, is using TV to give Americans a crash course in economics.
His blunt warning: Time is running out to solve this country's budget crisis and create new jobs.
Perot's television blitz, now in its third week, is breaking new ground in American politics. Armed with a voodoo stick, a reminder that President Bush once called Ronald Reagan's policies "voodoo economics," he points to charts and talks to viewers like a stern college professor.
His unorthodox campaign has already made history by putting him into the presidential debates as an independent candidate.
Now, without the usual campaign whistle-stopping, Perot is mustering the power of television to lasso votes in all 50 states.
Will it work? Political experts don't know. But they are braced for possible surprises as the campaign rushes toward election day, Nov. 3.
Del Ali, a nonpartisan pollster, says that, with enough money, Perot could achieve a second-place finish in some parts of the country if George Bush or Gov. Bill Clinton stumbles. It is still within Perot's reach to come in second in Texas, Mr. Ali says.
He could also embarrass the president in other states where the self-made billionaire is popular, particularly in the Sunbelt and the West, says the pollster.
Yet recent polls, if accurate, show that Perot has a long way to travel, and only 12 days are left to get there. Perot's support lags somewhere in the low-to-mid teens percentage-wise, compared with Clinton in the high 40s, and Bush in the low 30s.
Nevertheless, historian Alfred Eckes Jr. of Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, says he would "not be surprised to see Perot and Bush become more competitive" in coming days.
For his part, Perot blames the news media for lowering expectations about his unique campaign, most of which is self-financed. He blames the press for parading unfavorable stories about him before the public.
Speaking to reporters in Michigan, Perot complained: "You just continue your day-in, day-out negative statements about [my campaign].... I think you'll do anything for a `gotcha' story. That just means anything that'll get you a headline, get you a bonus.
"You get among your peers, and you high-five and say, `Okay, now I'm a big man. I got a story on the front page.' "
Directing his fire at a reporter from Time magazine, he said: "Your magazine is a joke." He wouldn't take a question from a New York Times reporter, saying: "I have to be real careful when you ask a question."
When an ABC-TV reporter rose for a query, Perot wondered aloud whether the newsman was going to ask what kind of food his cat had for breakfast. The media is failing to report the enthusiastic support for him, Perot charges. And when criticized, reporters get upset, he says.
"I've never met a more thin-skinned crowd in my life," he declares. "If you can dish it out, you ought to be able to take it.
"You can't take nothing.... You guys have less respect in this country than Congress."
As his campaign moves to its final phase, which may include some traditional campaigning with public rallies, Perot also is dishing out criticism of his opponents, particularly Bush. The Texan argued in Monday night's final debate that Bush failed to produce all the documents related to Saddam Hussein's seizure of Kuwait in 1990.
He accused the president and the State Department of virtually inviting Mr. Hussein's Iraqi armies to seize the northern part of that oil-rich country - a charge that Bush denies as "absolutely absurd."
The Texan's dander really was up on the subject of the just-signed North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Congress still must approve the deal, but Perot warns that it will be disastrous for workers in the United States. He observes in his colorful twang that if NAFTA is fully implemented, dropping trade barriers between the US, Mexico, and Canada, "you're going to hear a giant sucking sound of jobs being pulled out of this country right at a time when we need the tax base to pay the debt."
Under NAFTA, he says, American workers will compete head-to-head with Mexicans who earn just $1 an hour, and have no health care, no retirement, no pollution controls. He says jobs will migrate south of the border.
Perot blames America's immense trade deficit largely on "foreign lobbyists" who keep preaching "free trade." The country is being sold out to foreign interests, who pay lobbyists millions of dollars to open the US market for the benefit of foreign corporations and governments, he says.
Perot's next broadcasts: Thursday, 8:30 p.m. (EST) on ABC-TV; Friday, 8 p.m. (EST) on NBC-TV; Saturday, 8 p.m. (EST), on CBS-TV. A spokeswoman at Perot's media office says tonight's program will be biographical and will include details of his achievements in the business world.