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Clinton Plays Motivator-in-Chief of Democratic Faithful

Politics: President makes personal appeals to party loyalists to go to the polls Tuesday. His itinerary includes several stops in California this week.


LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Basking in the cheers of a crowd of 3,000 foot-stomping Democrats, President Clinton became "get-out-the-vote Bill" on Tuesday, exhorting party loyalists to make sure their friends and neighbors and even strangers go to the polls on election day for a "national referendum on our dreams."

"Never before in our lifetime have we had this much prosperity," he told supporters who packed the gymnasium of DuPont Manual Magnet High School here. Another 500 people watched on closed-circuit television from an auditorium and several hundred more were outside the school, unable to get into the rally.

With the polls showing a virtual dead heat in the presidential race, Democrats need a big turnout from the party's cornerstone constituencies--blacks, Latinos, Jews, labor union members and their families. A personal appeal from the president can help do the job, according to Democratic strategists.

It is an assignment that Clinton, one of the nation's most natural politicians, has accepted with enthusiasm.

On Sunday, he went to church twice to exhort the faithful in the Washington area, and on Tuesday he spoke at the Kelly Temple Church of God in Christ in Harlem and at an Irish American fund-raising event for his wife, New York Senate candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton.

After returning to Washington today to continue working on a congressional budget deal and to headline two evening fund-raisers, Clinton will head west.

He flies to California Thursday for two days of intensive campaigning and fund-raising in the Los Angeles area and in San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose. He will appeal for votes at rallies and for cash for candidates at receptions.

Vice President Al Gore, the Democratic nominee for president, seems to have a solid lead in the state, but Democrats hope the president can help provide a winning margin in several close House races.

"He's working this very hard," said a Democratic campaign official, recounting how the president spent hour after hour on phone calls Saturday to Democratic loyalists across the country.

Greeted here Tuesday with a two-minute standing ovation, Clinton introduced himself as "a guy who's not running for anything" but simply working to get voters to the polls to elect Democratic candidates and sustain the nation's prosperity.

"Every one of you has friends who will never go to an event like this . . . who will never hear a president . . . or a governor. . . ," he said. "You've got seven days, seven good days" to find people and tell them to vote for Gore and Eleanor Jordan, a Democrat running against a GOP incumbent here, Clinton added.

"If you want to protect worker safety and health" and promote better education for children, the president said, "you better send Eleanor Jordan to Congress."

Jordan, a former welfare mother who now is the only African American woman serving in the state Legislature, would be the first black woman to represent Kentucky in Congress.

Gore is not expected to carry the tobacco-growing state, where his positions against teen smoking and the tobacco industry have not played well.

Many of Clinton's outreach efforts have been directed at the party's African American supporters. Both of the churches he visited in the Washington area Sunday are predominantly African American, historically the most loyal of all Democratic voters. Clinton got more than 85% of black votes in 1996 and he hopes to transfer that loyalty to Gore this time around.

Like a minister, Clinton exhorted an audience of the faithful.

"I implore you, show up," he told the friendly and enthusiastic congregation at Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va. "Call every friend, family member, co-worker and halfway interesting-looking stranger you see on the street . . . between now and" Tuesday.

Clinton had been invited to the church by Lynda Byrd Robb. Her husband, Sen. Charles S. Robb (D-Va.), is locked in a tight reelection race with former Virginia Gov. George Allen.

Clinton said: "The Scripture says, while we have time let us do good unto all men. And [Tuesday] . . . it will be time for us to vote."


Who Votes

Democrats and Republicans have launched unprecedented efforts to boost voter turnout Tuesday. It's a challenge that varies from state to state. Here's a look at voter turnout in the 1996 presidential contest. The map also includes each state's number of electoral votes.

And Who Doesn't

Reasons registered voters cited for not voting in the 1996 election.

No time off/too busy: 21.5%

Illness/emergency: 14.9

Disliked candidates: 13

Out of town: 11.1

No interest: 16.6

No transportation: 4.3

Other reasons: 15.9


Note: These figures are based on the Census Bureau's most recent population survey in which people were asked whether they had voted.

Note: Does not add up to 100% because "don't knows" were not included

Source: Associated Press

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