Speech Targets Middle Class in Vital Midwestern States

By Bedard, Paul | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 30, 1996 | Go to article overview

Speech Targets Middle Class in Vital Midwestern States


Bedard, Paul, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


CHICAGO - When President Clinton last night told the Democratic convention he wanted to build a "bridge" to the future, he had a specific target in mind - middle-class voters, many who are undecided, in Midwestern battleground states that will decide his fate on Nov. 5.

More than exhorting delegates, Mr. Clinton's acceptance speech aimed at convincing mostly white middle-income Americans that he can be trusted to guide the nation into the next century, aides said.

By promising an enhanced war on teen drug use, tax breaks to parents facing huge college bills, support of Medicare and Medicaid, and renewed efforts to clean the environment, aides said Mr. Clinton was making practical proposals favored in Democratic polls of Middle American voters.

And by offering a $3.4 billion jobs program to help inner-city businesses hire welfare mothers, the president was trying to touch emotions of many moderate and conservative voters who reside in the crucial states and who don't want to hurt the poor but are tired of paying their bills.

The president also called the recently signed welfare bill "a new beginning" that would help in "ending the permanent underclass, with the poor lifted up - no longer isolated, exiled and forgotten."

This staunch defense of a bill that has sent fissures through his party was aimed straight at middle-class voters looking for assurance that Mr. Clinton was proud of the bill and not prepared to retreat from it later.

The president also challegned businesses "to hire someone off the welfare rolls," a demand that pleased many liberal Democrats on the floor.

"That was a good place to start," said Rep. Charles E. Schumer of New York. "He understands the problem with the current bill is it doesn't create work."

In the 1994 election, many of the voters targeted this year by the White House deserted the Democratic Party. Last night's optimistic address, laced with Republican-sounding proposals, was meant to excite and bring back the so-called "angry white male" voters, aides said.

"We will have reached nearly three-quarters of the voters we wanted to reach during this convention," said Clinton-Gore campaign manager Peter Knight.

White House Political Director Doug Sosnick said polls show that the president is ahead in the key states of Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri and Kentucky. …

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