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Perot Tries to Rally the Disaffected for Third-Party Bid

August 18, 1996

VALLEY FORGE, Pa. (AP) _ Using the information-age tactics and anti-establishment message that attracted a strong following four years ago, Texas billionaire Ross Perot is embarking on a third-party bid for the presidency based on rallying voters fed up with the Republican and Democratic parties.

Perot was flying to this historic community Sunday to accept the nomination of the Reform Party, which he won in a mail, telephone and internet poll. After addressing his supporters, Perot was reaching out to voters through a familiar venue, CNN’s ``Larry King Live″ show.

In his first presidential bid, Perot spent nearly $60 million of his own money, most of it on television commercials in which he appeared with pointer and charts to support his argument that neither Republicans nor Democrats were taking effective action to balance the budget and reduce the size and power of the federal government.

The 19.7 million votes Perot received in 1992 qualified his new party for $30 million in federal campaign funds. But he has not decided whether to accept the money, which would limit him to spending $50,000 of his own funds.

Another major decision facing Perot was the choice of a vice presidential candidate. Russell Verney, Reform Party chairman, said Perot was just starting the decision process.

Perot received the Reform Party nomination three days after the Republicans nominated Bob Dole for president. Next week, the Democrats will nominate President Clinton for a second term.

Former Colorado Gov. Richard Lamm, who lost his bid for the endorsement of the party Perot founded and financed, said he was committed to building a third party but wasn’t sure he’d vote for Perot.

``I’m going to sit on my back porch for a couple of weeks and really think about this,″ he told The Associated Press. While repeating his support for the Reform Party, Lamm said it has been ``too much in the shadow of Ross Perot.″

For Dole and Clinton, Perot represents a potential danger if he approaches the support he received four years ago.

Conservative commentator Pat Buchanan, who unsuccessfully challenged Dole for the GOP nomination, said on Fox ``News Sunday″ that he expects Perot will receive 9 or 10 percent of the vote in November and ``they are potential Republican voters.″

House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., told CBS’ ``Face the Nation″ that the Republicans ``should ignore Perot. Our job is to offer a solution. Let Ross Perot do what he wants to do.″

Rep. Richard Gephardt, the House Democratic leader, predicted Perot would not have an effect on the outcome of the election.

Asked on NBC’s ``Meet the Press″ whether he’d vote for Clinton, Dole or Perot, Lamm said he could vote for any of them but then indicated that his opposition to Dole’s 15 percent tax cut plan would make support for the former Kansas senator unlikely. As for supporting Clinton, Lamm said, ``Sure, I did before and I could again.″

Verney appeared on the same program and said Lamm doesn’t have to support Perot to remain active in the party.

``To be active in the Reform Party you only have to want to change politics as we know it today,″ he said.

The party chose its nominee through a process far different than that followed by Republicans and Democrats. There were no primaries, no caucuses, no convention roll call of state delegations.

Ballots were mailed to about 1.1 million people party officials said were members of the new organization, but few apparently bothered to vote. Perot ended up with 32,145 votes; Lamm with 17,121.

``I have to assume it was fair and square,″ said Lamm, but moments later said he still wanted to ``find out what happened.″

He also said the party is exaggerating its size. ``When we say there’s 1.3 million people in the Reform Party, I think the number’s closer to the 50 thousand that voted.″

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