Clinton Does His Part In California

President Bill Clinton waves during a rally in Oakland California
President Clinton happily took to the hustings for his vice president on Friday, leading Democratic campaign rallies in politically vital California.

Declaring, "This is a different America," Clinton stressed his administration's role in building the nation's prosperity and said electing Al Gore to succeed him is the best option for keeping it alive.

Before a rally at the George Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, Clinton invoked President Reagan's assessment of good times -- "Are you better off now than you were eight years ago?" -- and said Republicans are not in a position now to ask that question.

"All of a sudden, they've forgotten that test," Clinton said. "Or, they think if we're better off, the Democrats had nothing to do with it."

He called the economic high times of his eight years in office "a democratic recovery, big D and small d," and much improved over the dismal climate he inherited from President Bush. "It's not only a better-off country, it's a better country," Clinton said.

Inside the convention hall, the crowd waved handwritten signs that said "Score with Gore" and "Eight More Years." Outside, a demonstrator raised this message: "Algore Clinton. The most corrupt president in history."

At an earlier rally that drew more than 7,000 people to downtown Oakland, Clinton sought a validation of his desire to give up the White House to his vice president by exhorting the crowd to say Gore's name repeatedly.

"You just have one choice," Clinton said, extending a pointed finger. "Al Gore," the crowd replied.

Newly unleashed to campaign in politically vital California, Clinton spoke at three rallies in the San Francisco Bay area, heaping praise on Gore and taking jabs at the Republican nominee, Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

Clinton's primary role here was to help secure Gore's dwindling lead in the state by ginning up some last-minute excitement that could propel the party's faithful -- especially black and Hispanic voters -- to the polls in big numbers Tuesday.

It was a friendly crowd. They chanted "Thank you, Bill!" Some carried signs that said "Teamsters for Gore." Others waved signs with the message, "African-Americans for Gore-Lieberman" with a flip side that said "Stay out of the Bushes."

"There are three things you need to think about: You want to keep this prosperity going, or do you want to risk reversing it?" Clinton asked. "Do you want to build on the social progress of the last eight years, or do you want to take it down? Do you want to keep building one America, or go back to the politics of division?"

Bush, stumping in Grand Rapids, Mich., on Friday, took note of Clinton's burst of activity. He said that Gore had been trying to escape the president's shadow, but: "Guess what? The shadow is back."

Clinton' focus was on getting out the vote, with three rallies in Oakland and later in San Francisco and San Jose before heading back East, first to New York and then to campaign in Arkansas.

Thursday, the president was in a California mood. He donned an electric-blue blazer, red tie, black slacks and cowboy boots, and made the rounds with Gov. Gray Davis.

"Are you ready to win this election?" Clinton shouted before a heavily black crowd in a shopping mall parking lot in south-central Los Angeles. "Yeah!" the crowd replied, cheering lustily when Clinton took the stage with Davis, Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, and singers Wyclef Jean and Babyface, who expressed unabashed support for Gore.

"Things are good. If we go with that other guy, they might get bad," Babyface said.

Ron Jones, 40, of Palo Alto, predicted that even though the Democrats were rallying black voters late in the game, blacks still would vote in larger-than-usual numbers. "We're going to be the swing vote for sure," he said as he handed out marshmallows stamped with a picture of Bush and the slogan, "Vote Gore 2000. Roast Bush."

"Black folks love to come in at the last moment and have a party. Gore's gonna win this party," Jones said. "We're going to be barbecuing Bush on Tuesday."

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