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Perot Launches Presidential Bid 1,500 Followers Cheer Reform Party Nominee

Ross Perot, the Texas billionaire who insisted he didn’t want to be president, proclaimed himself off and running for the White House Sunday as the nominee of the Reform Party.

Addressing more than 1,500 cheering followers at a convention of the party he founded and funded, Perot told them, “I give you my solemn promise I will only act in the best interests of this country. I will be your servant. I will only belong to you, the people.”

After four years of hints and vacillation about his presidential ambitions, Perot announced that he had “spent 40 years preparing for the job.”

Recalling that he was accused of inexperience when he ran for president in 1992, and wound up with 19 percent of the vote, Perot argued that the only kind of experience he didn’t have was in running up debts and running social programs into the ground.

It was vintage Perot. His speech was full of folksy stories and exhortations to remember that they were meeting in historic Valley Forge “where George Washington’s soldiers fought barefoot for freedom.”

Assailing the current welfare system in America, Perot declared, “We have to decide who we are. Are we a proud independent people or are we little sheep who need someone to watch over us?”

Perot’s platform is still built on complaints about the failed political system, and much of the language was reminiscent of earlier rhetoric.

He did not announce a running mate, and he did not mention former Colorado Gov. Richard Lamm, other than to “thank him for his participation.” Lamm was Perot’s rival for the nomination in what became a brief but contentious campaign.

Lamm was soundly beaten in a new and potentially controversial voting process by mail, telephone and Internet. Despite all the furor by the Perot organization, there were less than 50,000 responses to the 1.3 million ballots sent out to Reform Party members a week ago.

Lamm was allowed a 10 minute speech at the nominating convention at which he compared his experience with the Reform Party to “riding a tiger.”

“I don’t regret a moment of it,” asserted Lamm.