Bush Covers 6 States in Final Push for WinBy John E. Yang
The Washington Post
Promising one of the "biggest surprises in political history," President Bush spent the final day of his campaign following an itinerary dictated by polling results and the arithmetic of the Electoral College, in a 1,645-mile, six-state search for the votes that would give him a second term.
"So now we go," Bush declared as he began Monday at a chilly and damp outdoor rally at the borough hall in Madison, N.J. "The last day I will ever campaign for myself for president of the United States or anything else."
In a dizzying blur of balloons, American flags and banners, high school marching band music and chants of "Four More Years," Bush goes from bone-chilling rain in the Northeast to mild autumn sunshine in the Midwest to the Southwest in a 14 hour span. The president -- appearing tired, sounding raspy and projecting confidence and enthusiasm -- sought to battle the public opinion polls the showed him trailing Democratic nominee Bill Clinton.
"We are going to show the pundits and the pollsters that they are wrong," he said defiantly to cheers at a rally on an athletic field in Glenolden, Pa., where a light but steady drizzle turned his view of the audience into a sea of umbrellas. "We are going to win this election ... . Now it's up to what the American people think."
"We are going to pull off one of the biggest surprises in political history," he shouted, pounding the lectern with his left fist. "Discard the pundits, discard the pollsters, discard the rhetoric out of Governor Clinton. Vote for me and we will lead this country to new heights."
Here in Louisville, he asked voters to consider seriously their vote. "When you walk alone into that booth tomorrow, you will not spend more than a couple of minutes," he said. "But your single voice will echo down the corridor of time ... . It's an act of power, a statement of principle and a harbinger of possibility."
In between stops, Bush said he relaxed by listening to the Oak Ridge Boys, a country-western group traveling with him, sing gospel songs aboard Air Force One. "Wasn't a dry eye in the house -- including mine," Bush told reporters while waiting to speak at an airport hangar rally here in Louisville.
Monday's trip -- from New Jersey to Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, and Louisiana before touching down Monday night in his adopted hometown of Houston -- takes him to states that account for 108 electoral votes -- states analysts say he must win to be re-elected.
Campaign officials said they designed the trip to put Bush in states where they believed a personal visit would make a difference. He extended his reach beyond the rallies with local television news and radio interviews aboard Air Force One.
White House Chief of Staff James A. Baker III cited the shift in the polls in recent weeks as a reason for optimism. "When the numbers can change this quickly, they can change this quickly," he said.
Monday afternoon he seemed energized by the milder weather that greeted him in the Midwest and the boisterous greetings he received. "I feel good," he said, flashing both thumbs upward, after he walked to the stage in a hangar at Akron-Canton Regional Airport.
Afterward, he bounded up the steps to Air Force One, turned to the crowd, punched his left fist in the air and then thrust his arms into a "V," both thumbs pointed skyward.
At stop after stop today he crammed the bruising, year-long campaign into a rapid-fire 20-minute stump speech.
He swung away at Clinton, whom he called "slippery," over issues of character and trust. "It boils down to this: When you go into the booth all across the country, Who do you trust?" he said in Madison. Here in Louisville he added: "We simply cannot take a risk on a man who keeps changing his position every single day in order to get votes, you can't do it."
He warned of dire results if Clinton managed the economy. "When Bill Clinton's blowing that `taxophone,' middle-class America is going to be singing the blues," he said.
He boasted of his own policies on trade, health care, education and crime. He attacked Congress and backed term limits for lawmakers. He reminded audiences of his stewardship during the Persian Gulf War. "Let's keep a president in that Oval Office who is strong and knows how to stand up for America," he said.
He blasted the news media. "There has not been objectivity in the coverage," he said to cheers. "This has been the most biased year in the history of presidential politics."