November 3, 1996 in Nation/World

Clinton Woos Latino Vote In Pursuit Of Texas Upset

Martin Kasindorf Newsday

On what he called “the last weekend of the last campaign of my life,” President Clinton stood at the Alamo on Saturday and urged voters to choose his inclusive “new politics of common ground” over the Republicans’ “old politics of division.”

Trailing Bob Dole in Texas polls but fighting for a historic upset, Clinton told a mostly Latino crowd of 10,000 that the gap is caused by Republican appeals to emotion over issues such as welfare and crime.

“Why aren’t we ahead in Texas in the polls?” he said. “It is an affair of the heart,” with many voters thinking Democrats “don’t really believe in work and being tough on crime and all that,” Clinton said. He counseled rejection of stereotypes and reliance on statistical “evidence” of economic and social progress under his leadership.

“Look at the history of the Alamo in the last 160 years,” Clinton said in cloudless sunshine. “Does anyone doubt it is better now that we are joined together with our friends in Mexico, and together with each other, than it was 160 years ago?” At the Alamo in 1836, 189 fighting men died seeking Texas’ independence from Mexico.

Although Clinton’s broad philosophizing was pitched to independents and undecideds, introductory speakers made it clear that turning out a big vote among Latino Democrats was a top priority in Texas.

On the platform with the president and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton were Latino actors Jimmy Smits and Esai Morales. Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros, a former San Antonio mayor, appealed to ethnic sentiment by charging that Republicans who “attack our heritage, attack our language” with anti-immigrant stands are providing reasons to vote Democratic. “This is personal,” he shouted.

Former Texas Gov. Ann Richards tried out her Spanish against the Republican speaker of the House, drawing laughs by declaring: “Newt Gingrich y sus pistoleros (and his gunmen) are on their way out.”

Clinton also employed his weekly radio address to argue for re-election on the high note of the day’s “common ground” theme. “Many people treat elections as opportunities to divide us,” he said. “But I believe this election can unite us to go forward together.”

White House spokesman Mike McCurry, specifying the divisive conduct Clinton had in mind, criticized Dole for having bluntly called “wedge issues” the arguments against affirmative action and illegal immigration that he’s stressing in California. Dole’s language was “distasteful at best,” McCurry said.

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