TRYING to capitalize on tough economic times here in New England, Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton (D) expanded a scheduled presidential campaign visit to include four regional states: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, and New Hampshire.
Campaign officials are counting on heavy political and financial support in Massachusetts. Of the entire six-state region, Massachusetts and Rhode Island are considered the strongest Democratic states and the two most likely to favor Governor Clinton in the November election. A recent Bay State poll by the Boston Herald and WCVB-TV shows Clinton leading President Bush 59 percent to 27 percent. But the depressed regional economy has opened up opportunities for Clinton in the other four states as well, say
Speaking before a Faneuil Hall crowd of about 45,000 in Boston, Clinton talked primarily about education. He referred to his proposal for a domestic peace corps that would open up opportunities for students who can't afford college. Under his plan, students would be eligible for loans, provided they could be paid back later as a percentage of income or through community service.
"Let us remember here that the college dropout rate in America is more than twice the high school dropout rate, in part because college education has gone up even more than health care," he said. "So on Nov. 3, one of the issues in this election is opening the doors of college education to all Americans."
The lively crowd, many of them students, applauded wildly as they waved signs and banners showing support for the Democratic candidate. The gathering at the city's famous shopping area took on the air of a football game with marching band and cheerleaders, all seated in bleachers.
Standing next to Clinton on the platform was former United States Sen. Paul Tsongas (D) of Massachusetts, who dropped out of the presidential race earlier this year.
US Rep. Joseph Kennedy (D) of Massachusetts and Boston Mayor Raymond Flynn (D) were also present, as were several city and state officials who spoke before Clinton arrived.
Clinton talked about the Bay State's role in the Revolutionary War, including the Boston Tea Party and Paul Revere's ride. Later, he mentioned Abraham Lincoln's fight to preserve the Union and Franklin Roosevelt's changes to American government to better serve people. "The cause of change is always difficult to make," Clinton said. "It is always easy to stay with a proven path, even if it is failure. It takes courage to change."
Clinton also faulted the Bush administration on health care, the economy, family values, and the environment. He criticized Mr. Bush for vetoing the family-leave bill and for misrepresenting his record as governor of Arkansas.
Near the rally, Clinton supporters chanting "Four More Months!" tried to drown out a Bush press conference blasting Clinton's economic policies. Bay State Lt. Gov. Paul Cellucci (R) cited a congressional study by the Joint Economic Committee saying that Clinton's economic plans and defense cuts would cost the state more than 41,000 jobs. Clinton can't take Bay State voters for granted, he said. Barbara Bush campaigned here last week and her husband will make a stop next Friday, he said.
Massachusetts is considered a major fund-raising state for Democrats, says Joseph Slavet, senior fellow of the McCormack Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. After the Boston rally, Clinton supporters scheduled two fund-raisers that were expected to net more than $1 million.