As the Republican presidential candidates made their final push to win the Iowa caucuses, President Clinton ventured confidently into the state Saturday to rally Democrats to his vision of an era of possibilities and insure that his own campaign themes are not eclipsed.
Never mentioning any of his possible opponents by name, Clinton recapitulated the broad themes of his State of the Union message in the packed basketball arena of the University of Iowa. And he urged Democrats to participate in their own party caucuses Monday even though he is running unopposed.
“Unless people like you all across America do things like show up at these caucuses and tell people you believe in your country and talk about the problems, but also brag on what’s going right, we can’t turn this country around,” Clinton said as the arena, jammed with about 10,000 of the Democratic faithful, lit up with flashbulbs.
“Cynicism is a cheap, phony excuse for inaction,” the president said to cheers and whistles. “It is a poor shield against having to assume your own responsibility.”
With no Democratic primary challengers, Clinton has the luxury of remaining presidential and high-toned as the Republican race becomes increasingly bitter in the final hours before the caucuses. Sen. Tom Harkin, the favorite son of Iowa who swept the state’s Democratic caucuses four years ago, made it clear in a speech at the rally that the Democrats would be campaigning in 1996 against a Republican who is not on the primary ballot.
“We have an opponent in the caucuses and this campaign,” he thundered. “It’s Newt Gingrich and his radical right-wing agenda.”
Harkin called on Democrats to vote against “Newt and his reckless, right-wing, reactionary rogues.” At another point he called House Republicans “Newt and the blowhards.”
Clinton’s aides say the president will not fully engage in the presidential race until it is clear who will be the Republican nominee. That could be as early as April because of this year’s string of early primaries.
But Clinton loves a campaign, and he has been making weekend trips to New Hampshire, and now this two-day, three-city swing through Iowa, to keep his visibility up in important primary states and counter the Republican jabs at his presidency.
Four years ago, Iowa swung to Clinton in the general election. But the state has a Republican governor, one Republican senator and a streak of cultural conservatism.