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Perot Cheered in Clinton Country; Wins Ballot Spot : Independent: ‘I’m ready to climb into the ring if you’re all in there with me,’ he tells Arkansas backers.

TIMES POLITICAL WRITER

Ross Perot stormed into the back yard of presumptive Democratic nominee Bill Clinton on Saturday to accept the acclaim of supporters as well as a place on the November ballot for his anticipated independent presidential candidacy.

He left his backers fired-up enough to forecast victory for him in a state where Clinton has served as governor for 12 of the last 14 years.

“We will take the state for Perot,” John Arens, chairman of the Texas billionaire’s Arkansas campaign told a reporter after the prospective candidate spoke to an enthusiastic crowd of about 4,000.

The crowd appeared larger than the one for a Little Rock parade and rally honoring Clinton last weekend.

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Perot, beaming broadly during his speech, told his listeners, “It’s time to pick up the shovel and go clean out the barn.”

Leaving little doubt about his presidential intentions, he also said, “I’m ready to climb into the ring if you’re all in there with me.”

Perot’s appearance climaxed a two-day state convention that earned him a spot on the ballot in Arkansas, making it the ninth state to officially certify his as-yet-unannounced candidacy. Instead of having to collect petition signatures, as in most states, Perot’s backers met Arkansas’ ballot requirements simply by getting together to formalize their support for him. They were rewarded not only with the chance to hear their hero, but also with entertainment by country singer Willie Nelson.

Nelson has made common cause with Perot over their mutual concern for the plight of family farmers. Before regaling the crowd with a rendition of “On the Road Again,” Nelson told the rally, “We’re going to rebuild the country from the ground up and I feel Perot is the man to get it started.”

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The Perot gathering took place about two miles from the Statehouse where Clinton has reigned for more than a decade. The governor was in California on Saturday.

Arens, the Arkansas Perot leader, said he views the businessman’s support in the state as “not so much a statement of anti-Clinton feeling as it is dissatisfaction with the two major parties in general.”

Perot himself, in a 40-minute discourse repeatedly interrupted by cheers, shouts and the occasional chant of “Declare, declare,” repeatedly strummed these chords of discontent.

Under a Perot Administration, he said, government officials would be required to take commercial flights rather than travel aboard government planes. He said he would do away with presidential motorcades that “tie up traffic in your hometown for two hours” and would ask Congress to ban foreign interests from paying former government officials as lobbyists.

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“If you send me up there, there won’t be anyplace up there for people to come (who) want to cash in,” Perot said. “If you send me up there all these boys are going to go to the airport, get in line, lose their luggage and eat a bad meal. That’s reality.”

He also responded to a charge often made by detractors that he is attempting to buy the presidency in his willingness to spend millions of dollars of his own money on his campaign.

“That’s right,” Perot said. “I’m buying it for the people of the United States because they can’t afford it.”

For most of the speech, Perot used a negative but potent sales technique--instead of discussing why people should back him, he listed the kind of people whose vote he did not want.

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“If you enjoy talking about problems, but not solving them, if you want Lawrence Welk music, you know, ‘wunnerful, wunnerful wunnerful,’ go vote for somebody else, OK?” he said.

“If you can go to bed and sleep soundly tonight, with our cities and our industry across the country being in the condition it’s in, with millions of jobs going overseas year after year after year, then you don’t want me (in the White House) because I’m going to be up there with a wrench in my hand under the hood of the car working night and day to turn all that around.

“And if there’s anybody out there who’s not willing to work hard at whatever job exists, don’t vote for me,” Perot added.

Also on Saturday, CNN broadcast an interview with Perot in which he raised objections to President Bush’s proposed free-trade zone with Mexico.

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Talking with civil rights leader and CNN commentator Jesse Jackson, Perot predicted that the proposal would cause U.S. factories to move to Mexico, weakening the U.S. tax base.

“In Mexico, workers are paid a dollar an hour,” Perot said. “There are little or no environmental and pollution controls, little or no health care.

“And if there are no restrictions to shipping the products north, there’s no way that a comparable factory, making comparable products, paying American standard of living wages can compete with it. So in effect we will sweep all the manufacturing south across the border, at a time when we’ve got to pay off our debt,” he said.


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