After Debate Clashes, Back to the Campaign
TOMS RIVER, N.J. (AP) _ President Clinton and Republican challenger Bob Dole returned immediately to the campaign trail today, hoping to reinforce the points they made Sunday night in an inconclusive first debate that highlighted differences on schools, taxes and Whitewater.
While Clinton remained in New England to campaign, Dole began a bus tour of New Jersey.
``When people think of Bob Dole, I want them to think of the word `trust.′ Trust. Trust. And when they think of the word `Bill Clinton,′ I want them to think of the word `fear,‴ Dole said at a rally in a high school football field here.
Clinton, meanwhile, accepted the endorsement of 2,500 chief executives and business leaders at a rally in Stamford, Conn., and said it showed that corporate America can support Democrats as well as Republicans.
Appearing on a day the Dow Jones stock average passed 6000 for the first time, Clinton heard Xerox executive Paul Allair tell an audience of 300 chief executives: ``We share the common view that the president is good for America and good for American business.″
Clinton accepted the endorsements gratefully.
``I have wondered for years why the Democratic party shouldn’t have at least as much support in the business community as the other party,″ he said.
In New Jersey, Dole implored his mostly young audience to ignore polls showing him still trailing Clinton. ``Don’t believe the pundits. Don’t believe the polls. We’re going to win this election,″ he said.
In one of his few references to the debate itself in Hartford, Conn., Dole joked: ``I felt good last night when an impartial observer told me I won the debate. And Elizabeth generally knows what she’s talking about.″
Instant polling found neither man scored much of an advantage in the debate and Dole, who asserted Sunday night he won the boost he needs to cut Clinton’s big lead, was less certain this morning. ``I don’t know,″ he said, when asked if he thought his performance would help turn the race around. ``I enjoyed it. ... I’m going to go to work today. We are going to work hard.″
Spokesmen for both campaigns said the debate left the race where it was at the beginning of the weekend, with Clinton ahead.
Dole ``really needed to redefine this race ... because we’ve only got four weeks left. I don’t really think he did it; I think the race is about the same as it was starting this weekend, and we’re really looking forward to moving forward,″ Clinton campaign press secretary Joe Lockhart told ABC news this morning.
Dole spokesman Nelson Warfield agreed, with a twist. ``I think the race is still where it was a couple days ago _ that is, moving in Bob Dole’s direction. The momentum is clearly on our side and last night did a lot to move that forward,″ he said.
Clinton, in Stamford, recited the steps he said his administration has taken to expand and support business and called on business executives to help welfare reform succeed ``by putting people back to work without hurting the business.″
``This is a manageable thing; we can do this,″ Clinton said. ``The government cannot hire all these people; we still have a debt. ... This has basically got to be a private-sector show. I am very gratified that all of these business executives have promised to do what they can.″
Clinton planned to campaign in two other New England states where he is ahead, but where Republicans often dominate _ New Hampshire and Maine. He campaigns later in the week in Tennessee, Ohio and Kentucky.
After his two-day bus tour of New Jersey, Dole will spend the rest of the week in the Midwest, including a bus trip through Ohio.
``When the story is written about this campaign, the record will show that we turned it around in Hartford, Connecticut,″ Dole told supporters.
Yet an instant CBS poll indicated nine of 10 viewers did not change their support as a result of the first debate. Clinton was called the debate’s winner by six of seven high school and college debate coaches who judged it for The Associated Press. The seventh called it a tie.
Entering the debate, Clinton was ahead by a dozen points or more in most national polls and in surveys from the major battleground states. The two will meet again in 10 days, in another one-on-one encounter because of the controversial decision to exclude Ross Perot.
For himself, Clinton told a post-debate rally: ``I believe the American people tonight got an accurate picture of the differences in this election and the stakes of this election.″
In the showdown, Dole brought up the subject of possible Whitewater pardons, referred indirectly to Clinton’s experimentation with marijuana as a student and even took a crack at the president’s weight.
He portrayed the race as a ``question between trust and fear,″ telling the president: ``I think, Mr. President, about all you’ve got going in this campaign is fear.″
Countered Clinton: ``It is not midnight in America, senator. We are better off than we were four years ago.″
That was a twist on Ronald Reagan’s now famous question to Americans in a 1980 debate with then-president Carter: Are you better off than you were four years ago?
For the most part, Clinton trumpeted his achievements and praised the current economic recovery, growing more relaxed as the debate wore on.
Dole, initially nervous, was the aggressor throughout, accusing Clinton of ``election-year conversions″ on many subjects.
And, though the format ruled out asking questions of each other, Dole managed to get one in to Clinton: what was his view on pardons? It was a reference to potential pardons of those convicted of Whitewater crimes.
``There is no consideration of it,″ Clinton said. ``I will not give anyone special treatment and I will adhere to the law.″
Dole countered that a ``no comment″ might have been more appropriate.
While there were a few sharp exchanges, much of the debate was civil, with both Clinton and Dole saying they liked each other.
Dole said his basic difference with Clinton was ``I trust the people. The president trusts the government.″
He asserted that drug use had doubled in Arkansas while Clinton was governor and that Clinton had cut money for the White House anti-drug office.
``I won’t comment about other things that have happened in your administration or your past about drugs,″ Dole said in a clear reference to Clinton’s student experimentation with marijuana.
Retorted Clinton: ``My family has suffered from drug abuse. ... And I hate drugs, senator.″