Fate of the Union: America's Rocky Road to Political Stalemate

By Robert Shogan | Go to book overview
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6
The Unraveling

IN EARLY FEBRUARY 1992, Bill Clinton's presidential candidacy was on life support. The controversies about his womanizing and avoiding the draft had sent his poll standings into free fall; he was now ten points behind Paul Tsongas -- "St. Paul" as the Clinton people derisively called him -- over whom he had once held a commanding lead. Clinton sought to blame his troubles on some sort of Republican conspiracy. "People ask me sometimes during the course of the last three weeks how I've sustained all these obviously very well-planned and coordinated negative hits," Clinton told a crowd of supporters at a fund-raising dinner in Jonesboro, in his home state. "And I said," he added with bitter humor, "'Oh, this is just an ordinary election week in Arkansas."'

If neither the accusation nor the joke was persuasive, Clinton still possessed one important source of comfort -- money. On his way back to New Hampshire from his visit to Jonesboro, he stopped off in New York City for a major fund-raiser. The setting for the dinner was the Sheraton Center, a nondescript hostelry in midtown Manhattan. But the take was eyepopping. When Clinton departed the Big Apple that night, his campaign's bank balance was healthier by $750,000, all due to the generosity of the moguls of Wall Street.

Clinton's staff had no trouble finding a way to spend the money. It paid for two half-hour television programs on the Thursday and Friday before the New Hampshire vote, which, by rehabilitating Clinton's character, helped him regain enough of his previous support to make his "Comeback Kid" claim on primary night.

It was not just the intrinsic value of the cash raised from New York's financial community, as important as that was, that mattered. "That dinner signaled to a lot of people that some very smart money was behind Clin

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