Perot Supporters Gear Up for Candidate’s Visit
DALLAS (AP) _ Ross Perot supporters in New Jersey and Pennsylvania scrambled Saturday to turn pep rallies into major campaign events after he agreed to attend at the last minute.
The events near Flemington, N.J., and in downtown Pittsburgh Sunday, just nine days before the election, mark Perot’s first appearance on the campaign trail since formally entering the race Oct. 1.
Until now, Perot has relied exclusively on a multimillion-dollar blitz of TV commercials and on the presidential debates. Polls this weekend show his support at about 20 percent.
Perot on Saturday was broadcasting another half-hour TV program, the sixth of his campaign. With 60-second commercials included, the Dallas billionaire has spent more than $17 million on TV advertising this month.
He bought another hour of time on ABC before the highly rated ″Monday Night Football″ for $940,000, the most Perot has paid yet for TV time.
Saturday’s program, called ″The Ross Perot Nobody Knows,″ featured his longtime executive assistant, Sally Bell, describing some of his charitable works. She was joined by people who said they have received favors or assistance from Perot over the years.
″It seems like he has the unique ability to just throw out all preconceived notions, look at the situation, recognize unique possibilities ... and then he just goes ahead and does what he thinks needs to be done,″ Bell said, according to a transcript released before the broadcast.
The program’s ending was notably different from others by Perot, which have told voters ″The choice is yours.″ Saturday’s program ended: ″Vote for a real change. Vote for Ross Perot.″
In interviews, speeches and debate appearances, Perot himself has always stopped short of asking for votes.
High ratings for Perot’s half-hour shows, including two where he lectured about the economy and his plan for reducing the federal deficit, have surprised many. The Smithsonian Institution even asked Perot’s ad team for the ″voodoo pointer″ and some of the charts he used in one program, spokeswoman Sharon Holman said.
As for Sunday’s rallies, organizers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania said they expected much larger crowds than they had earlier anticipated.
″This started out as a rally for the coordinators and the people of New Jersey,″ said Susan Addabbo, a Perot volunteer in Edison, N.J. ″We’ve had to shift gears now that Mr. Perot is coming. ... We’re pulling together the best we can.″
In Pittsburgh, 5,000 $3 tickets had been distributed throughout the state for a rally at the David Lawrence Convention Center.
″We thought we would be selling them at the door,″ said volunteer Mary Ann Dimuzio. ″This is before we knew that Ross Perot was coming. I guess we could have printed 15,000 now.″
The independent candidate decided Friday to attend the rallies, choosing them from similar events in several states. Campaign aides said political strategy did not play a role in the choice, but convenience and supporters’ ability to modify their plans did.
Democrat Bill Clinton leads in the polls in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
As Perot has surged in the polls, Bush and Clinton expressed wary regard by stepping up their criticism of Perot’s economic ideas.
But Perot aides have been buoyed by the discussion by Bush and Clinton of several issues Perot brought up during the final debate, including banking woes, U.S. support for Saddam Hussein before the Gulf War and foreign lobbyists.
For instance, Clinton surrogates amplified his promise to ask senior members of his administration to pledge they will never become registered foreign agents.
″To us, that’s very significant,″ said Clay Mulford, general counsel to the Perot campaign. ″That makes two of us. Maybe Mr. Bush will adopt that too.″