WHITE HOUSE strategists, taking seriously Ross Perot's unrelenting campaign against the North American Free Trade Agreement, are seeking to portray him as an extremist.
The fall counteroffensive is expected to include a series of television ads by retired Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca, a supporter of the contentious trade pact with Mexico and Canada.
The stakes in the battle are likely to rise with the expected announcement by House majority leader Richard Gephardt that he opposes the pact. White House sources said the Missouri Democrat was unlikely to actively work against the president.
Administration officials hope that Mr. Iacocca can help blunt Mr. Perot's contention that the pact would cost more than 5 million United States jobs and endanger the domestic auto industry.
One reason why the administration is paying closer attention to Perot than before, Democratic strategists suggest, is that the billionaire is now making potential inroads into President Clinton's Democratic base. Base closings endorsed
Military bases that escaped the 1993 round of closings could have a short-lived reprieve with both the Pentagon and Congress intent on a leaner post-cold-war defense.
Congress resoundingly endorsed the Pentagon's smaller-is-better strategy Sept. 20 by agreeing to close 130 bases and scale back 45 others. Direct job losses will be concentrated in California, Florida, and South Carolina.
The next round of closings is set for 1995. Defense Secretary Les Aspin said when he presented the Pentagon's plans in August that more rounds of closings will be required to meet military downsizing goals.