The US Presidential Elections: Perot's homilies help gain ground

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The Independent Online
Flemington, New Jersey - With the lead in the presidential race narrowing, and enthusiasm for Ross Perot's campaign growing nationwide, the billionaire candidate addressed a rally in rural New Jersey yesterday.

At a tumbledown speedway racetrack, Mr Perot was rapturously received by about 10,000 supporters who turned the event into a quasi-religious occasion.

The Texan stepped up to the microphone on a windswept reviewing stand, to be introduced by a Vietnam war hero who had sent him his Purple Heart medal to wear during the campaign. 'God Bless America and God Bless Ross Perot,' said the veteran, Dennis Skirvin. He told the supporters that Mr Perot was 'a sincere man with great solutions for America'.

New Jersey is a key state that the Republicans have won in every presidential election since 1964. There are 15 electoral college votes at stake and the polls show the Democratic candidate with a 15-point lead over George Bush, with Mr Perot gaining ground fast.

Mr Perot delivered some homilies and explained that he had pulled out of the race in July because he feared the dirty-tricks campaign of the Republican party against his 19-year-old daughter, Carolyn. He said the Republicans had used computer imaging to doctor a photograph in the hope of smearing her.

Mr Perot went on to coach his followers in the art of pyramid sales. 'I want you all to go out and get five more people to vote in the way you're going to vote,' he said. 'Then get those five to do the same.'

He attacked the Bush and Clinton campaigns for saying that a vote for Perot would be wasted. 'You know they say I'm crazy and all who support me are crazy,' he told the crowd. 'But my motives are just about as simple as the country-and-western song 'Crazy': I'm crazy with love for my country.

'I don't want everybody in America plucking chickens for a living,' he said.

Enthusiasm for the no-nonsense anti-politician, who says he can fix the ailing US economy, was palpable as people lined up for hours for a front-row seat at the racetrack.

Flemington, a rural town in southern New Jersey, is traditionally Republican territory, but voters in the state are deserting the Republicans in droves.