President Clinton opened a Western campaign swing Saturday in the jagged red rocks of Colorado, listing a cheerful melody of accomplishments before hiding away for debate preparation.
The president planned sparse public schedules in Denver and New Mexico, where he was headed today for three days of mock debates, golf and rest. The final debate with Bob Dole is Wednesday in San Diego.
With the electoral map in mind, before leaving Washington Clinton signed water-resources legislation whose centerpiece aims to help protect the Everglades in Florida. He is challenging Dole for the state’s 25 electoral votes, which normally go to Republicans.
Standing in the open-air Red Rocks Amphitheater, Clinton promoted the new law and other environmental initiatives. Without naming Dole, he said “my opponent” voted against the family medical leave law and drew contrasts between Republicans and Democrats on a host of social issues - particularly the environment and education.
“This election is (about) whether we’re going to build a bridge to the future that we can all walk across together or whether we’re all going to build our own little bridges,” Clinton said.
It was his basic stump speech - a long list of his proudest moments, from the passage of the 1994 crime bill to the 1996 minimum-wage increase. He spoke in wonder about gene research into the cause of breast cancer and experiments restoring spinal activity in lab animals.
“This is a better country - and if we can do that for people, this can be a much better country,” he said.
His cheerful message was - by design - a marked contrast to the increasingly negative tone of Dole’s campaign. Frozen low in the polls, the Republican candidate has pledged to draw more attention to questions about Clinton’s character.
Clinton’s team hoped to pre-empt the assaults by chastising Dole for even thinking about it. As the Republican team met in Washington to plot campaign strategy, Clinton spokesman Joe Lockhart said the Dole camp is considering going negative because, “they have no (other) message.”
The president was attending a fund-raiser for Senate candidate Tom Strickland on Saturday night.