Kerry Riding the Clinton Mystique

Will former President Bill Clinton's last-minute campaigning for Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry give him enough of a "Bubba-bounce" to land an election victory?

Clinton heads to New Mexico and his home state of Arkansas this weekend, hoping to generate some momentum for Kerry in the last days before the Nov. 2 election. The former president, who is recovering from a Sept. 6 quadruple heart bypass surgery, came off the political sidelines earlier this week to campaign for Kerry in the hotly contested states of Pennsylvania and Florida.

With various polls showing the race between Kerry and President Bush close, both campaigns were relying on added political star power to gain an edge among voters. While Clinton campaigned for Kerry, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger hit the trail for Bush.

Some political observers believe Kerry's use of Clinton will be vital to energizing Democratic voters and key to swaying black voters who overwhelmingly support Clinton and the Democratic Party but may feel ambivalence toward the Massachusetts senator.

"The purpose of bringing Bill Clinton out will be to encourage heavy voter turnout, to get the word out to vote," said Bruce Altschuler, chairman of the political science department at the State University of New York in Oswego. "It won't be used to convert voters -- endorsements actually don't change people's minds or help them decide who to vote for. For a lot of people, Democrats and Republicans can't afford to concede any vote [in this race], and the use of Bill Clinton is more for bringing energy to the party and getting Kerry's base excited.

"Plus, no Democrat has been able to generate excitement among the African-American community as much as Bill Clinton has," Altschuler continued. "They hope he will be able to get the kind of wide turnout among black voters that they hope will go in Kerry's favor."

Not Taking the Black Vote for Granted

A recent poll by The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies found that 18 percent of blacks support Bush while 69 percent support Kerry. (Independent candidate Ralph Nader found support in 2 percent of blacks while 11 percent remained undecided). Other recent nationwide polls have found similar results.

The polls still show overwhelming black support for Kerry but they also suggest slippage. Exit polls in the 2000 presidential election showed that Bush only received 10 percent of the black vote nationwide. Some experts believe Bush could gain support from black voters who support his faith-based initiatives and share his opposition to gay marriage.

That's why the Kerry campaign dispatched Al Gore to Florida and hopes Clinton will galvanize black voters and convince them that their vote does matter. Kerry's campaign hopes Clinton will remind all voters of a time of economic prosperity and what their lives and the country were like before Bush's administration. Kerry hopes voters believe a vote for him will be a vote for Clinton and a return to prosperity.

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