GLENDALE — Carrying a passenger list that read like a Who's Who of past and present Republican leaders, a locomotive bound for San Diego made a brief stop here Saturday for a political rally that drew hundreds of supporters and a few dozen detractors.
Evoking a tradition as old as the party itself, the "Victory Express" train departed from Oakland before dawn for a whistle-stop tour of the state as it headed south to the Republican National Convention in San Diego.
Sponsored by the California Republican Party, the passenger train rolled into Glendale's small station at 4:34 p.m., a bit behind schedule but well worth the wait for the many men and women who turned out to show their support, judging by their cheers.
"With your help we are going to carry California this fall," House Speaker Newt Gingrich told the enthusiastic crowd, which greeted the Georgia congressman with raucous applause when he stepped from the train. "The case is very simple and clear-cut."
Flanked by party stalwarts such as California Assembly Speaker Curt Pringle (R-Garden Grove), Assemblyman James Rogan (R-Glendale), former Secretary of State George Schultz and former U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, Gingrich praised Dole's running mate, former congressman Jack Kemp, whom he called "the leading evangelist of economic growth and lower taxes."
"Jack understands, I think as well as anyone in the country today, that you have to have economic growth . . . so everyone can rise together," Gingrich said.
Kemp, a California native who attended college just a short distance away in Eagle Rock during the 1950s, was a popular choice among many of the supporters in attendance, several of whom sported homemade "Dole/Kemp" buttons and signs.
"I love his speeches," said Amber Emery, a 22-year-old Burbank resident and Republican Party volunteer. "He's really energized Bob Dole."
Dressed in a dark blue blazer decorated with GOP pins, Emery described herself as an enthusiastic Dole supporter, a man she called a hero for his service in World War II.
"He's a role model, unlike Bill Clinton, who smoked pot and was a draft dodger," she said.
In contrast with the many GOP fans dressed in red, white and blue, a few dozen casually dressed Clinton supporters waved signs and banners from an empty lot next to the train station, with several costumed as the cigarette caricature "Butt Man" that has dogged the Dole campaign in recent weeks.
Not to be outdone, however, were Bob and Mimi McConnell of Alhambra, who came armed with their own signs such as "Dole and Kemp Smoke No Hemp" and "Bob and Jack: Give Bill and Al the Sack!"
"The Clintons make me want to vomit," Mimi McConnell said bluntly.
Emery, who said she would like to run for public office herself someday, took a somewhat rosier view of the 20-minute rally.
"I feel really alive and excited, especially today," she said. "It's really gotten me more motivated to get involved and be a part of history."
But for all her affection for the Republican Party, there was really only one person she wanted to see up close. Opening her wallet, she withdrew a membership card from the man's booster club.
"Friends of Newt Gingrich," it read.