Democratic presidential nominee Michael S. Dukakis, fighting a sore throat and a running clock, insisted he was “surging” Friday as his beleaguered campaign began its final get-out-the-vote push.
With three days until Election Day, Dukakis pleaded with supporters from working-class Queens, N.Y., to bluegrass Lexington, Ky., to “forget about the pollsters, forget about the pundits.”
Dukakis did not have to plead in Chicago. Despite cold, drenching rain, thousands of supporters turned out for a traditional torchlight political parade that local Democrats called the largest in two decades. And thousands more fans cheered and chanted at a late night rally.
‘George Bush Can Hear You’
“You’ve made so much noise, they can hear you on the West Coast and the East Coast,” Dukakis told the thundering crowd. “George Bush can hear you too.”
True or not, Dukakis’ underdog campaign made history of a different sort on Friday. Bob Farmer, campaign treasurer and chief fund-raiser for the Democratic Party, said the Democrats had raised $54 million, a record for the party.
Farmer said he expects the total to hit $56 million by Tuesday. The tally is more than five times the cash Democrats raised in 1984.
“We wanted a level playing field with the Republicans, and we got it,” Farmer said. “We may even have raised more than the Republicans this year.”
As a result, the Democrats have millions for the final ground war. Political director Charles Campion said volunteers already are making “600,000 phone calls a night” across the country to rally supporters for Tuesday. He said 7.8 million calls already have been made.
“Now comes the final push,” he said.
Dukakis hopes part of the push will come from local political organizations. Many of those groups turned out for the colorful late night parade down windy Michigan Avenue, a quadrennial Chicago rite. More than 100 ward and township political groups built floats, beat drums, blared bugles and marched with Dukakis banners.
Mainly White Backers
Most of the organizations, however, came from the white side of Cook County’s polarized politics. Although the Chicago-based Rev. Jesse Jackson marched with Dukakis, he is unpopular with many white ethnic voters here.
As a result, the campaign made sure the two men did not walk alone. They were joined by three other former rivals for the Democratic nomination: Sen. Albert Gore Jr. of Tennessee, Sen. Paul Simon of Illinois and former Gov. Bruce Babbitt of Arizona.
Shortly after the parade turned off Michigan Avenue to head for the Medinah Temple for an evening of speeches, Dukakis committed what reporters who have covered him believe to be a campaign first. As a sign, perhaps, that in the closing days of the campaign he has begun to take on the reflexes of other politicians, he walked to the side of the parade route to kiss a baby.
‘Furlough From Truth’
The parade ended a day in which the raspy-voiced Dukakis pounded away at his rival, Republican nominee George Bush. He charged that the vice president had “taken a furlough from the truth” by claiming he is on the side of working Americans.
“He says he’s on your side?” Dukakis asked in a mocking tone as thousands of supporters jammed streets in Queens’ Forest Hills neighborhood at a sunny noon rally. “Who’s he kidding?”
Dukakis has used a battle cry of “we’re on your side” for two weeks now. He maintained that populist pitch Friday, applying it to the problems of inner cities and urban America, areas Bush has largely avoided in his campaign.
“If you believe that this great nation, this decent nation, this compassionate nation, this affluent nation, has the power to end the shame of homelessness, then we’re on your side,” Dukakis said, as the crowd roared back.
As supporters climbed trees and clambered on phone booths, Dukakis vowed to “take America back” from the ills of the last eight years.
“We’re going to take our streets and neighborhoods back from the drug dealers and pushers,” he said. “We’re going to take our government back from the influence peddlers and the sleaze merchants. And we’re going to take America back from dishonest contractors and polluters . . . . We’re going to have an Administration that cares about clean air, clean water, a clean environment and clean government in Washington, D.C.”
Paying homage to his polyglot supporters in his last visit to New York, Dukakis also promised to celebrate if he wins by eating a meal only slightly more appealing than eating crow if he loses.
“We’re going to celebrate with lox and bagels (pause), a little pasta (pause), some Irish stew (pause), barbecue ribs (pause), a little arroz con pollo (pause) and baklava for dessert!” he said, adding to a stomach-churning menu that has grown at each stop this week.
Sees Surprise for GOP
Later, on a wind-swept airport runway in Lexington, Dukakis said Republicans will be surprised next Tuesday “if they think we’re going to risk the lives of our kids by putting the war on drugs in the hands of Dan Quayle.”
High-powered Democrats and assorted celebrities joined Dukakis all day. New York Gov. Mario M. Cuomo and entertainer Cher, among others, introduced him in Queens. Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn, former Virginia Gov. Charles S. Robb, Kentucky Sen. Wendell H. Ford, among others, spoke with him in Lexington.
“The New South is stirring,” Ford said. “The New South is saying to the rest of the country (that) Mike Dukakis and Lloyd Bentsen are for us. The people are rethinking this campaign.”
And Nunn mocked Bush’s pledge not to raise taxes. “Watch his lips, because when his lips move, he’s lying,” said the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
For all the fighting spirit, the best evidence glum-faced aides could show to confirm Dukakis is “surging,” as he claimed, was a new CBS News poll that showed him still down 7 points, at 51% to 44%. Three days earlier, CBS reported Dukakis down 12 points.
“The surge is certified,” campaign spokesman Dayton Duncan said.
Duncan argued that Dukakis is coming back into contention because of reported closing margins in such key states as California, Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Texas.
“Substantial gaps have been closed or erased,” he said. “There’s been significant movement in lots of places in Dukakis’ direction.”
Plans to Stump in Texas
John Sasso, Dukakis’ chief aide, said the Massachusetts governor now plans to add a stop in Texas, and might return to Ohio, a state they had decided to forgo earlier this week when polls seemed to show it out of reach.
And Sasso assailed the Bush camp for unveiling new negative ads in the final weekend that attack Dukakis on what he called “flags and furloughs.”
“I anticipate he’ll go negative right to the end,” Sasso said. “He’s desperate. Why else would he do it?”