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Clinton Rallies Southland Faithful

Politics: The president, starting his two-day swing through the state, urges a big turnout on election day. He says Democrats can win five House seats in California.


With an adoring crowd shouting "four more years," President Clinton on Thursday appealed for a big voter turnout next week, telling a Baldwin Hills gathering that "we have five, count 'em, five House seats the Democrats could win in California alone."

Clinton, perhaps the most popular politician in the eyes of Californians, is on a two-day blitz of the state to inspire Democratic voters at rallies and keep the cash flowing at small meetings of affluent contributors.

Vice President Al Gore has a comfortable lead in the state in the presidential race but Democratic leaders are hoping that the president's swing through California will provide a boost to candidates in close House races.

And Clinton was delivering a strong message for the party, urging voters to go to the polls Tuesday. "I know I'm sort of preaching to the saved but, look, this is a close election," he told an estimated 6,000 people outside the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.

Many members of the shouting and cheering crowd were African Americans, the voting bloc with the strongest record of electoral support for Clinton among all constituencies of the Democratic Party.

"Thank you, thank you, for the support California, Los Angeles and Watts have given me and Al Gore," Clinton told the rally.

Gov. Gray Davis, who introduced the president, said that he had called the White House two weeks ago, telling Clinton: "We need you in California to rally the faithful and remind people what a difference the Clinton-Gore administration has made for California."

The cheers for Clinton were matched by ovations for Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, a popular songwriter, singer and record producer and an enthusiastic backer of the president who has appeared for him at several campaign events.

"We're at a crossroads--all these things are good and it's not time to slack back," Edmonds told the crowd.

Recalling his 1992 election "when society was divided and there were riots in Los Angeles," the president said: "You gave us a chance and we changed America."

Clinton said that he has tried to help all segments of society make substantial gains.

"I have tried to make the people in Watts feel they have as much stake in the White House as my friends in Beverly Hills," he told the rally.

Thursday's visit was his 56th trip to California since he took office in 1993 and his eighth sojourn this year.

The crowd's enthusiasm was stoked Thursday before the president's arrival by upbeat music from local high school bands and speeches from local officials and community leaders.

For younger voters who might not otherwise pay much attention to politics, singer Babyface was a big draw.

Democratic officials hope that the president's enduring popularity among the core of party loyalists--including African Americans, labor union members and Jews--will generate a high turnout on election day that will help the party's House and Senate candidates as well as Gore.

However, the Gore campaign has turned down White House offers to help in the Midwest battleground states, fearful that uncommitted, or swing, voters might be turned off by a Clinton campaign appearance, a reminder of scandal and impeachment.

In addition to the Baldwin Hills rally, Clinton spoke at several money-raising events and receptions for congressional candidates Gerrie Schipske, Jane Harman and Rep. Cal Dooley. Today he will appear at rallies in Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose.

Earlier Thursday, Clinton spoke on a national radio broadcast as part of an effort to appeal to African American and Latino voters. On the Tom Joyner radio show, he urged listeners to vote for Gore, saying that was the "next best thing" to voting for Clinton himself. "I feel very strongly that we're going to win it if our folks vote," he said.

In recent days, the president has sought out the heart of the Democratic constituency.

On Tuesday he visited Harlem, speaking to an audience that included many members of the New York Ministerial Alliance. The Rev. Herbert Daughtry called Clinton "the greatest president we have known in our lifetime."

Carl McCall, the New York state treasurer, introduced the president and underscored the fact that he was among devoted Democratic friends. "Brothers and sisters, I want you to know we are the base," McCall said.

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