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Trip to Northeast Gives Clinton a Boost : Politics: President is greeted by enthusiastic crowds as he campaigns for Kennedy, Cuomo. He renews attack on GOP 'contract with America.'

October 21, 1994|JOHN M. BRODER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. — President Clinton came to the Northeast this week to lend what succor he could to two aging liberal lions, New York Gov. Mario M. Cuomo and Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, but to his surprise found some relief from his own recent flagging fortunes.

After enduring several weeks of late-night fund-raisers and small and soulless crowds, Clinton found generous welcomes in New York and Massachusetts, two of the few places in the United States where he is more popular than the Democrats he came to support.

Kennedy, warming up a packed house of Democratic faithful at the Framingham Memorial Building, was even so bold as to announce that he was looking forward to working for Clinton's reelection.

"As soon as we reelect old Kennedy to the United States Senate, we're going to start on the '96 campaign to reelect Clinton," Kennedy said to a roar from the audience.

Most Democrats are vastly more worried about their own hides on Nov. 8 than about Clinton's fortunes two years from now. Many candidates have shamelessly shunned Clinton and spoken of him as an albatross in a year expected to produce large GOP gains in Congress.

But Kennedy was clearly buoyed Thursday by a new Boston Herald poll that showed him opening up a 50%-40% lead over his Republican opponent, businessman Mitt Romney.

Clinton's approval rating in Massachusetts is nearly 60%, higher than in any other state and well above the national figure of 46%. In New York, the President's job approval rating is 55%, while Cuomo's is only 45%.

Good-sized crowds lined the streets of Framingham, a working-class town west of Boston whose tree-shrouded neighborhoods were painted in the bright colors of a New England autumn as Clinton's motorcade passed.

The President, obviously delighted and a bit surprised at his warm reception here, stood before a huge U.S. flag and a living tableau of Democratic officeholders and office seekers as he urged the crowd inside the hall to reward Kennedy and other Democratic "agents of change."

He richly lauded Kennedy for his record of bipartisan achievements and scored Republican senators for blocking health care reform, environmental legislation and campaign finance reform.

"So when you hear (Republicans) spouting their liberal epithets--you know, 'liberal, liberal, liberal'--you say: 'All we know is, you guys didn't reduce the size of the federal government. We did. You guys talked about a crime bill. We passed one. You guys bad-mouthed the deficit. We lowered it. You guys talked about the economy. Our economy is coming back,' " Clinton said.

And he once again attacked the Republican "contract with America," a pledge to cut taxes, increase military spending and balance the budget. Clinton said that the GOP plan amounted to $1 trillion in promises with no revenue to back it up.

"I would love to make you $1 trillion worth of promises," Clinton said. "With $1 trillion worth of hot checks, I could show everybody in this house a good time tonight."

Earlier Thursday, in a packed gymnasium at Framingham High School, Clinton signed a bill providing nearly $11 billion in aid to the nation's schools in 1995 and $60 billion over five years.

Clinton spoke at some length in the stuffy gym, as the students fanned themselves and dark-suited politicians squirmed. Near the end of his remarks, Clinton noted that marijuana use seemed to be rising again and urged the youths to keep away.

"All illegal drugs are dangerous. We have to drive down usage again," Clinton said. "It is a stupid thing to do, as well as an illegal thing to do, and I want you to help bring it back down."

On Wednesday night, Clinton paid homage to Cuomo, who is facing his toughest political challenge as he seeks a fourth four-year term as New York governor.

In a Manhattan hotel ballroom, Cuomo spun out 25 minutes of matchless oratory about his humble beginnings and his soaring ambitions. When his turn to speak came, Clinton shook his head and said: "I watched him tonight and I was thinking: Why is this a race? Why is this even close?"

But Cuomo is locked in a tight contest with state Sen. George Pataki, and he's looking for aid wherever he can get it, even to the President, who in many districts around the country is not popular.

Clinton's appearance helped Cuomo and New York Democrats raise an estimated $2.5 million. In the audience were singers Madonna and Carly Simon, and actors Robin Williams, John Cusack and Alec Baldwin.

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