Warning against overconfidence, President Clinton on Sunday helped raise millions of dollars for the Democratic Party, pitched for a Senate candidate in New Jersey and preached the importance of voting on election day.
“I’d like to celebrate, scream and shout--but it’s not over yet,” Clinton told a rally on behalf of Rep. Robert G. Torricelli (D-N.J.), the Senate hopeful. “It’s a long way from over.”
Earlier, the president called on members of an inner-city church congregation to vote, exclaiming: “It’s your responsibility!”
Yet even as he sought to ward off the dangers of voter apathy, the president’s strong position in public opinion polls seemed to have generated an abundance of political capital--the currency that pays for campaign events and the intangible value of his presence on behalf of other Democratic candidates.
Clinton attended fund-raisers in Westchester County, N.Y., and Manhattan on Sunday that were expected to raise more than $3 million for the Democratic Party. At the Rockefeller Estate in suburban Tarrytown, N.Y., about 75 contributors paid $25,000 each.
“I think all the [Democratic] candidates are going to get a boost” from Sunday’s fund-raising events, said Clinton campaign spokesman Joe Lockhart.
On the stump Sunday, Clinton appeared to be concerned that a lack of voter turnout could nullify the lead that polls suggest he has.
Speaking to an overflow crowd of several hundred at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, the president appealed to the friendly congregants: “On Nov. 5, be there.”
To motivate his supporters to vote, the president is depicting the election as an epic choice between two radically different philosophies of government. It is a choice between “very big ideas which have huge practical consequences,” he said at the Torricelli fund-raiser.
In particular, Clinton alluded to his support for a continuing government role in education and social welfare, which he contrasted with what he called the go-it-alone approach of the Republicans.
“There is a very high principle at stake here because even a lot of the good things that are happening in the world today are dividing people,” the president said, referring to new technologies and those who have the education to make the most of them. Clinton added that he was “determined” that technology and education be broadly shared to prevent gaps between rich and poor.
The Torricelli event, in a Marriott Hotel ballroom, got off to an awkward start as at least one heckler from a group known as the Workers World Party, holding a placard declaring that “a million kids will go hungry” because of the welfare reform bill that Clinton signed, loudly berated the president.
“Facts are inconvenient,” Clinton said as the protester complained about foreign policy and welfare changes. “We had the biggest drop in child poverty last year in 20 years. Second fact: We had the biggest drop in poverty in households headed by women in 30 years. We had the biggest decrease in inequality among working people in 27 years.
“What else should I talk about? I like this.”
The Democratic Party’s goal for Sunday’s fund-raisers in New York, coupled with a similar event last week in Los Angeles and another planned for later this week in Washington, is $10 million to $15 million. Most of it will be used for House and Senate races.
The president plans to expend some of his personal capital--appearances and endorsements--on behalf of Democratic candidates in Ohio, Michigan, Florida, Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana over the next several days.
Clinton did not conceal his happy spirits Sunday as he entered the home stretch of the campaign.
“About this time of year, people in our line of work are tired on Sunday morning,” Clinton told the church crowd in Newark. “They hurt from head to toe. Well, I’m not tired anymore.”