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Quest for the Presidency, 1992

By Peter L. Goldman; Thomas M. Defrank et al. | Go to book overview

9.
Goin' Home

T he campaign jet was southward bound from Baltimore to Macon, Georgia, deep in the heart of what ought to have been Clinton Country, but the candidate was still in a state of acute distemper with everyone -- the opposition, the press, his own team, himself. It was the day before Junior Tuesday, and his morning, always his worst time, had been spoiled by a fresh round of polling. Tsongas was beating him in Maryland, Colorado, and Minnesota. Even Georgia, the state he had been counting on as his firebreak, was in some danger; the Atlanta Constitution had just come out for Tsongas, upsetting Clinton greatly, and Governor Zell Miller, his most important ally in the state, had warned James Carville, "We're not bleeding -- we're hemorrhaging."

The Clinton road show had taken on the air of a death march, and the gloom had infected its star. "Goin' home!" Clinton had crooned happily to himself, breaking camp in New Hampshire only two weeks before. Now he was home, or headed there, and as his jet streaked across Dixie, he was telling his combat-numbed troops, "This battle may be over."

He had started the day at a Metrorail subway in Maryland, smile in place, shaking hands in the early March chill and gamely telling reporters to forget the polls -- "this thing is going in the right direction." Out of their earshot, his mood was foul and his sense of direction the opposite of what he had claimed. He was still growling at his strategists and, most particularly, his ads. "They have not captured the essence of my economic message," he railed at his traveling party. "They've lost Minnesota. They've lost Maryland." He wanted new ads, fast, this time with him on camera framing his race with Tsongas as a choice between yesterday and tomorrow; more trickle-down Reaganomics or a new commitment to invest in the future.

His aides had taken the beating in glum silence, hoping that, as usually happened, the storm would blow over. It didn't; almost as soon as Clinton had buckled into his seat for the flight south, the stage smile fell away, and he erupted again. His voice, raw with overuse, was a

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