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Clinton Ends March With Series of Rallies

By Edward Walsh
The Washington Post

ST. LOUIS

Bill Clinton's long march toward the White House entered its final hours Monday in a whirlwind of airport rallies that stretched more than halfway across the country and a rallying cry from the Democratic presidential nominee for Americans to "seize control of your own destiny."

For all the miles traveled, however, this was no frenzied dash to the finish line. Instead, despite the electorate's proven volatility this year, despite the uncertainty that accompanies any election, a sense of quiet serenity settled over the Democratic nominee and his campaign staff as they hurtled their way through the day and into the night.

Clinton's message was positive, meant to inspire, with barely a mention of President Bush and none of Ross Perot or of the hostility and negativism that has marked their extraordinary, three-way contest for the presidency.

At Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, as a sharp wind whipped off the waters of Lake Erie, the Arkansas governor echoed the opening passages of Theodore H. White's classic book "The Making of the President 1960," which recounts the election of Clinton's political hero, John F. Kennedy.

"Tomorrow," he said, "the great mystery of American democracy will sweep across this country. Wave after wave of you will go quietly into the voting booth and in the solitude between you and your vote you will become as powerful as any person in the United States of America. I ask you to remember that this is a big election which will shape the future of your country well into the next generation, well into the next century."

Bundled against the cold and rain that greeted him in Cleveland, Detroit, and here, Clinton swept through the midwest and headed south and west on a 4,108-mile journey through eight states that was to end after dawn on Election Day in Denver.

His troublesome voice was hoarse but functioning and his mood ebullient as Clinton, accompanied by his wife, Hillary, and Democratic National Committee Chairman Ronald H. Brown, made his final plea in a campaign he began more than a year ago.

Invoking the names of American heroes from George Washington and Thomas Jefferson through Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt to Kennedy, Clinton told the sparse crowd at the Cleveland airport, "This election is a race between hope and fear, between division and community, between responsibility and blame, between whether we have the courage to change, to stay young forever, or whether we stay with the comfort of the status quo. Tomorrow, we will drown out the negative voices that have held us back so long and build the America you deserve."

The lofty rhetoric was a reflection of the confidence that imbued the Clinton campaign only hours before Tuesday's voting was to begin. Gone were the attacks and the Clinton specialty -- the counterattack -- against Bush, which were seen as unnecessary and probably counterproductive at this stage of the race.

Dee Dee Myers, who worked for 1988 Democratic nominee Michael S. Dukakis and is Clinton's press secretary, recalled Monday how four years ago the Democrats were "constantly on the defensive" until very late in the campaign, when Dukakis hit on his "on your side" theme and what become known, half in jest, half in hope, as the "Dukakis surge" began to take shape.

At the end of that contest, pushing himself through a final, nonstop 36 hours of campaigning, Dukakis was attracting large crowds -- larger, in fact, than many that turned out to see Clinton Monday. But the surge, if it was ever real, was gone by then and what Myers describes as the "suspension of disbelief" necessary for campaign workers to endure the hardships of their 20-hour work days had given way to grim reality.

"Four years ago, I just wanted it to be over," she said. Now, she went on, "a tremendous sense of responsibility is beginning to set in" among the Clinton aides as they begin to look beyond Tuesday.

Part of Clinton's mission Monday was to shore up his party's ticket in key races around the country. He urged his supporters to go all out for Lynn Yeakel, who is challenging Republican Sen. Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania, for Sen. John Glenn, who is fighting for political survival against Republican Lt. Gov. Mike DeWine in Ohio, and for Geri Rothman-Serot, who trails in her race against Missouri Sen. Christopher S. "Kit" Bond (R).

But for Clinton himself, the front-runner in the presidential contest, the last campaign day was a time to remain carefully above the fray. In Philadelphia Monday morning, he brushed aside a question about Perot's last-minute attack on his record in Arkansas.