MILLIONS of Americans, unhappy with the major party candidates for president, are clamoring for H. Ross Perot to run for the White House. What's behind the great popular appeal of this self-made Texas billionaire?
* Richard Martin of Washington, D.C., a former foreign service officer, says simply: "I've been waiting 40 years for someone to come along to give America a good swift kick in the pants. I think Perot is the man to do it."
* Anne Reisser, who writes romantic novels from her home in Herndon, Va., likes Mr. Perot's engineering approach to business and government. "We're very short on competent people in our government," she says.
* Mike Lynch, a computer technician from Burke, Va., thinks the United States needs a good manager to get back on track - and he's sure Perot has the ability.
* Jerry Robarge, a realtor and retired federal employee from Dunn Loring, Va., calls Perot "very straightforward." Perot cuts through the nonsense and "gets right down to the nitty-gritty," he says.
The nationwide ground swell for Perot has surprised some Inside-the-Beltway pundits, who initially disparaged the Texan's chances.
A public opinion poll taken March 27-29 by the Los Angeles Times found Perot already attracting more than one out of five voters, even though he is not officially in the race.
The Times survey of 1,521 adults gave George Bush 37 percent, Bill Clinton 35 percent, and Perot 21 percent.
The other day in Vienna, Va., Perot enthusiasts gathered at a local hotel to figure out how to get him on the Virginia ballot as an independent candidate in November. Organizers expected 50 people to show up. Instead, several hundred were there.
Pat Clawson, chairman of "Virginians for Perot," calls this "a citizens' revolution" that is going to "take the country back."
Mr. Clawson, who comes from Arlington, Va., says angrily: "We've lost control of our country to a malicious force of arrogant bureaucrats, oppressive tax collectors, [and] check-bouncing congressmen...."
Public officials have sold out to become "foreign agents at high salaries," Clawson charges. Meanwhile, "Gucci-shod lobbyists who chuckle as they stroll the halls of Congress" shell out "bribes" that they "describe with a wink as campaign contributions," he says.
Clawson's complaints draw cheers from the Perot crowd, many of whom express disgust with both the Democrats and the Republicans.
More comments heard by a reporter chatting with Perot supporters for two hours follow. Some names were withheld at the speakers' request.
Jessica Hamdan, international affairs specialist, Washington, D.C.
I personally believe that this is a watershed election. It will determine if this country is going to go deeper and deeper into the hole, or if we are going to be pulled out of it.
I've been aware of Mr. Perot for a number of years. I felt that he was a truly great man, a great human being. I was never a fan of Bush, anyway; and as far as the Democrats go, I don't think they've got it together.
I'm a registered Democrat, and Perot may be [conservative], but he appeals to me because of the fundamental issues we're facing right now. It doesn't matter if you are a Democrat or a Republican. We're all having hard times.
Jane Docherty, home day care provider, Annandale, Va.
I have always been well left of center, and my father is retired Air Force. For the first time, we're talking about voting for the same person, Perot. So I know this is a revolution.
Name withheld, advertising marketer, Washington, D.C.
I have not been involved in a political race in my life. But I wanted to get involved. I am basically a conservative, voted for the last three Republican administrations. And when the barometer in me says it's time for a change, you can look at the multiple effect. Bush is in for a surprise.
Perot represents change, a real difference. He represents some basic values in America, but I don't see the Republicans or the Democrats addressing them.
Bill Clinton just represents more of the same. And I don't see any real direction there from President Bush.
This [economy] is more and more global, and we aren't going to be able to compete on the present course. Bush isn't addressing that, and Clinton is compromising with special interest groups. We need to do what is good for America.
Mike Lynch, computer technician, Burke, Va.
To me, Perot is my hero. The world, in my opinion, is just a big K-Mart. We're just a company in that store, and we need the best manager, and he's the best. He's got a track record that proves it.
Bush has done everything wrong, and Bill Clinton is too political. Maybe Perot can't accomplish anything as a politician, but as a businessman he certainly has.
John Thomas, retired federal executive, Oakton, Va.
Perot has always impressed me. How good he'd be as a politician, I'm not sure because a lot of different attributes are needed than in business. But I'm so unhappy with the establishment we've got, I'm willing to look at anybody.
As for Clinton? Terrible. I have no use for the man. He doesn't have the integrity that I want to see in public office. And Jerry Brown is very interesting, I like some of his comments, but I don't take him seriously.
Name withheld, management consultant, Bristol, Va.
Perot has always fascinated me, even before the rescue mission or his time with General Motors. I'm quite fed up with the other choices, so I think he would do a great job. He's a man of action.
Bush just doesn't seem to be doing anything, or even saying anything. As for Clinton, you probably don't want to hear what I have to say.
Perot says he wants to do something about government waste and abuse. Having lived in the Washington area since 1983, having worked for government contractors, and having friends who work for the government, I don't think most people out there realize just how much abuse there is in the system. I want to see something done about it.