YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Clinton Sprints to Iowa to Defend Key House Seat : Politics: Victory for 18-term Democrat Smith is viewed as a must. Midwest contests continue to hold special significance for the President and his party.


DES MOINES — President Clinton's pre-election sprint took him to Iowa Thursday, where Democrats are defending a House seat that they must keep to prevent the Republican tide this year from becoming a tidal wave.

Clinton appeared at a Des Moines airport rally on behalf of 18-term incumbent Democratic Rep. Neal Smith, who is in a surprisingly close race with a well-financed Republican opponent, plastic surgeon Greg Ganske.

He pleaded with several hundred Iowans gathered in a chilly hangar to keep Smith in Washington and to replace Republican Gov. Terry E. Branstad with Democratic Atty. Gen. Bonnie Campbell. Both races are considered tossups.

Clinton asked voters for their help in pursuing Democratic goals. "Now what we need to do, if you really want to keep going in this direction, is to give me partners. Send these people to Congress. I need help, folks."

Earlier in the day, Clinton appeared in Albany, N.Y., to exhort New York voters to turn out on behalf of Gov. Mario M. Cuomo and the rest of the state Democratic ticket.

Clinton also taped interviews Thursday with seven Los Angeles television stations to try to build interest for his appearances in Southern California today and Saturday.

He spent the night in Duluth, Minn., where he will campaign today for Democratic Senate candidate Ann Wynia, who is fighting for the seat now held by retiring Republican Sen. Dave Durenburger. White House officials said that the Minnesota Senate seat is the only one currently held by Republicans that the Democrats have any hope of capturing.

Clinton's travels this week to the Midwestern battlegrounds of Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin have particular significance for him and his party.

The scenario for outright Republican control of both the Senate and the House requires victories in these closely fought venues.

Clinton also touched down here with an eye on his own prospects in 1996. His dreams of a second term depend on winning these pivotal states, which put him over the top in 1992.

Clinton's efforts on behalf of embattled Democratic Senate candidates Joel Hyatt in Ohio, Bob Carr in Michigan and Wynia in Minnesota have overshadowed a little-noticed subtext of his last-minute campaigning.

In those three states, 10 Democratic House incumbents are threatened with defeat. Those seats, if lost to the GOP, could mean the difference between Republicans winning 30 seats but falling short of a majority--and an absolute GOP takeover of the lower chamber of Congress, which would require capturing 40 seats.

The White House's private assessment now has Republicans winning 35 House seats and five to eight Senate seats. The GOP needs a seven-seat net gain to win control of the Senate.

White House aides are now no longer talking about a Democratic surge in the final days before Election Day, despite a sign proclaiming "The Comeback" at the Cuomo rally.

"A 'surge' may be a bit of an overstatement," said White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers. "Stopping the hemorrhage is more like it."

And nowhere is stopping the bleeding more important than in these Midwestern states, Democratic strategists say. In Michigan, the party needs to hold the seats now occupied by Dale E. Kildee, Sander M. Levin and Bart Stupak; in Ohio, those of Sherrod Brown, Thomas C. Sawyer, Ted Strickland, Eric D. Fingerhut and David Mann; in Minnesota, those of David Minge and Collin C. Peterson.

Clinton visited Ohio and Michigan earlier this week and is in Minnesota today. He returns to Minnesota and Michigan Monday.

Clinton summarized the stakes in a packed gym at the Albany campus of the State University of New York Thursday morning as he appeared for Cuomo and Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who faces little threat from his Republican challenger, hide-a-bed heiress Bernadette Castro.

"This election is shaping up to be one of those classic American elections that gets replayed every so often in our history," Clinton said. "A race between hope and fear, a race between tomorrow and yesterday, a race between people who appeal to what is best in us and those who tell us that everything is just terrible and we ought to lash out. . . . That is what we are facing in these closing days."

Clinton's Schedule

President Clinton arrives at Los Alamitos Naval Air Station at 3:30 p.m. today, beginning a brief visit to Southern California. He is scheduled to speak at the base and then depart for a 4:15 p.m. rally with Democratic candidates in front of Los Angeles City Hall. He is expected to speak about 5:30 p.m. He also will attend a private fund-raising event. On Saturday he will address the Realtors convention in Anaheim, an event that is closed to the public, before departing for Washington state.

Los Angeles Times Articles