- The Washington Times - Monday, November 1, 2004

From combined dispatches

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Former President Bill Clinton returned to his native Arkansas yesterday, saying Republicans were trying to drive a wedge through the American heartland with social issues.

“Let’s be frank about it. Out in the country, they are wearing us out with guns and gay marriage. It’s a load of bull,” said Mr. Clinton, who hasn’t lived in the state since 1992 and moved to Chappaqua, N.Y., after leaving the White House in 2001.

“A lot of people died for the right to vote, and I don’t want to be rolled by people staying home from the polls that shouldn’t be,” Mr. Clinton told a crowd of about 3,000 gathered at a civic arena.

He said Republicans were trying to mislead the public about the positions on key issues of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry.

On guns, Mr. Clinton said, Mr. Kerry wants to reinstate the ban on so-called assault weapons that expired earlier this year, and wants enforcement of the Brady Law provisions requiring background checks and a waiting period for handgun purchases.

On same-sex “marriage,” Mr. Clinton said, the senator from Massachusetts feels that homosexuals should be eligible for civil unions and feels the matter of marriage should be decided by individual states.

“This election is not about guns and gay marriage,” Mr. Clinton said. “It’s about the economy, health care and the future of our children.”

Mr. Clinton was sidelined four years ago by Vice President Al Gore, whose campaign feared that the Monica Lewinsky scandal made Mr. Clinton an electoral liability.

Mr. Bush won Arkansas in 2000, and an MSNBC-Knight Ridder poll of 625 likely Arkansas voters taken last week showed Mr. Bush with a 51 percent to 43 percent advantage with a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.

But Mr. Clinton told Kerry supporters in Arkansas yesterday: “You can still win here. It depends on which side gets the vote out better.”

Mr. Clinton underwent heart bypass surgery two months ago. He returned to the campaign trail about a week ago at a rally in Philadelphia, where he appeared with Mr. Kerry. Since then, the former president has visited several swing states to rally the Democratic faithful.

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