Bush Spreads His Message On Ohio Whistle-stop Tour

Posted: September 27, 1992

ARLINGTON, Ohio — Summoning the ghost of Harry Truman, President Bush rolled by rail through the autumn-withered cornfields of western Ohio yesterday, giving his opponent hell in a bid to revive his static campaign.

On the first leg of a two-day journey that will take him to several Republican enclaves in Ohio and Michigan, the President, perspiring under a mellow yellow sun, charged that Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton would "go after the middle class" and that Clinton's programs would require him to raise taxes on everyone with taxable income of more than $36,600 a year.

Clinton, campaigning in New England, replied that his program would raise taxes only on those with incomes over $200,000. He reacted strongly to Bush's comments, saying: "He has no credibility on taxes, and he can't count. Everything he said is wrong."

The Democratic nominee yesterday spoke at enthusiastic rallies in New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont, where thousands turned out to greet him on the shore of Lake Champlain.

"I don't want to be like they are - all criticism and no progress," Clinton told an airport rally in Maine. "I want to stand for

something. . . . I was raised to believe this is a can-do country, and I think we ought to throw the can't-do crowd out of Washington."

As Bush's 19-car train, dubbed the "Spirit of America," snaked northward across the loamy plains of the Buckeye State, friendly crowds waved American flags and cheered. There were only occasional discordant notes from Clinton supporters with signs complaining about job losses and sagging farm prices.

More animated than usual, Bush spoke to crowds from the observation platform of a plush, two-bedroom, mahogany-paneled rail car, taken out of mothballs especially for the trip.

His two-day, 219-mile journey pales by comparison to the 21,000 miles and 300 speeches that Truman endured 44 years ago.

Bush's tour was intended not to emulate the Truman campaign but to resurrect the spirit of the feisty underdog who upset Republican Thomas Dewey in 1948.

Although Bush has said he did not vote for Truman, he often holds the former president up as a model of the dogged determination that he says will help him overtake the front-running Clinton.

National polls, however, have not been cooperating with the President's scenario. Despite his intensified attacks on Clinton - reminiscent of the way Truman so effectively assailed Dewey - Bush has failed in the last month to shrink a 12-point lead in polls.

Recent polls in Ohio indicate that Clinton is leading Bush by 8 to 10 percentage points. The President carried the state with ease in 1988.

In Marysville, the President's first stop, David and Teresa Goins, both 30, joined a crowd of 3,000 to cheer Bush.

David Goins, a former Navy supply officer who now helps manage a small steel company, acknowledged that support for the President in Ohio was lagging.

"People perceive a lack of action on things that are important to them," he said, "such as health care, crime and drugs, the quality-of-life things we are looking for."

His wife, Teresa, is attracted to Bush's family-values message. "I'm awful scared of Clinton," she said. "I don't like his moral values. I don't think he's honest."

William Smart, 64, who grows corn, soybeans and wheat on a 1,000-acre spread in nearby Delaware County, Ohio, said he would vote for Bush, but complained about low farm prices.

"If it weren't for the (federal) subsidies, we'd be really hurting," said Smart, a lifelong Republican.

Bill and Bonnie Channell, in their early 40s with two children attending Ohio State University in Columbus, listened attentively as Bush lambasted Clinton. But they said afterward, "We're voting for Clinton."

"Where I work, we had 350 hourly employees four years ago," said Bill Channell, a machinist and member of IAM Local 427. "Now we're down to 134."

Channell said people with 18 years' seniority were losing their jobs at his plant. "I've been there 25 years, and I'm just hanging on. The sad thing is, if I lose my job, I'd end up working for $6 to $8 an hour, with no benefits."

Bush's tour through Ohio took him to the Fourth, Fifth and Seventh Congressional Districts - all safely in the hands of Republicans and considered to be unassailable Bush strongholds.

On the second leg of his trip today, through the western suburbs of Detroit, Bush will also be on friendly ground. His stops there - at Plymouth, Wixom, Holly and Grand Blanc - are in communities that voted for him by 2-1 ratios four years ago.

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