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Clinton Campaigns Heavily Throughout New England During Last Campaign Day

By John F. Harris
The Washington Post
LEXINGTON, Ky.

Bill Clinton Monday raced through the last of hundreds of days he has spent in a lifetime running for president, touching down in five states to offer a rapid-fire recitation of his reasons for re-election.

On the final day of the 1996 campaign Clinton turned at times toward history, comparing his mission to that of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, and asserting: "At every point of great change in the history of this nation, someone has to step up and say, we're going to meet this challenge and we're going to go forward together, and when we do, we will be living closer to our ideals."

At other times he turned toward sarcasm, mocking Republican Robert J. Dole for two weeks ago saying the nation has its worst economy in 100 years, and last week saying it was the worst in 20 years. "He made a great speech for my re-election the other day," Clinton chortled, adding, "Who else do you know who could make up 80 years in two weeks?"

And at times the varied messages on this kaleidoscopic day were downright contradictory. In Bangor, Maine, very early Monday morning he said he ran for president because he was tired of "all that name-calling and liberal-this, conservative-that, Democrat, Republican," and that this election is "far more important than the political parties involved."

But, after three hours sleep in Manchester, N.H., Clinton made one of his most explicit appeals yet on behalf of his party. He called the "Democrats the party of the future," and warned people that "your vote is going to decide whether you return to the Congress a majority of people who have prepared to shut the government down unless we agree to dismantle the Medicaid program.'

Clinton and the Republicans have both proposed slowing the rate of growth in Medicaid, but by different amounts. But such nuances weren't on the program Monday as Clinton repeatedly implored his supporters to "seize the day" in Tuesday's election.

Clinton's way of seizing the day is stretching it. After going to bed at 3 a.m, he was not set to end the campaign in Little Rock until 4 a.m. Tuesday. There were stops Monday in Cleveland and here, and more scheduled in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Sioux Falls, S.D.

All told, Clinton has had about seven hours of sleep over the previous 72 hours. Aides noted that, while Dole has drawn the publicity for his "marathon," Clinton has apparently had less downtime (Dole took a six-hour break Sunday). His voice was a bit croaked, his eyes a bit bleary, but Clinton was plainly enjoying himself.

Inevitably, there was a heavy element of nostalgia on this last tour, especially in Monday morning's stop in New Hampshire. This was the state that saved Clinton from political oblivion in the 1992 Democratic primary, when he was beset by allegations of extramarital affairs and draft-dodging. A second-place finish in the Granite State that year gave Clinton enough momentum to keep his campaign going.

Monday morning, Clinton had breakfast at Manchester's Merrimack Restaurant with a group of friends and volunteers from the 1992 campaign. Clinton's eyes welled up as he greeted Michael Morrison, a 20-year-old student with cerebral palsy. As a high-school student that year, Morrison organized youth for Clinton, event though he wasn't old enough to vote, and drove his electric wheelchair several miles down the highway to work the polls on election day.

"How's it going, buddy," Clinton said. "Good to see you."

The friends around the breakfast tables reminisced while Clinton roamed the room offering handshakes and bear hugs. Will Brown, a former Democratic national committee member from New Hampshire, recalled: "I figured when I first met him in 1978 that he had the makings of a president."

Across the table, Jan Paschal one upped that. "I believe he would be president in 1968," said Paschal, who knew Clinton in their hometown of Hot Springs, Ark, before she moved to New Hampshire.

Outside the restaurant, Clinton recalled in a rally that once in 1992 he promised New Hampshire residents that if they gave him a chance, "I would be with you until the last dog dies."

"Well, folks, there's a lot of life left in this old dog."

That was just one of several dog metaphors invoked by the Democratic ticket Monday, giving the day an odd, apparently unintended canine theme.