- The Washington Times - Monday, November 11, 2002

Bill Clinton's campaigning in Florida and other states didn't turn out the vote the Democratic Party hoped for.
Nevertheless, Democrats are not ready to castigate the efforts of the former president, who traveled relentlessly around the country propping up Democrats, many of whom lost as Republicans made sweeping gains of offices in last week's midterm elections.
"We take our cues from the candidates, and they wanted his assistance, and they got it," says Tovah Ravitz-Meehan, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. "He was very gracious about his time and his name."
Mr. Clinton made a furious effort in the two weeks leading up to Election Day, making stops in states from Massachusetts to Florida.
While he has been the undisputed champ of Democratic fund raising, Mr. Clinton is also said to have been relied on heavily for strategic moves by the party in its failed bid to retain the Senate, as well as in numerous governor's races.
In California, for example, it was on Mr. Clinton's say-so that incumbent Gov. Gray Davis loosed a series of television commercials during the Republican primary against former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, who looked to be a strong opponent in the general election.
The strategy worked, and the incumbent Mr. Davis went on last week to defeat an obviously weaker opponent, Bill Simon.
In Florida, though, Mr. Clinton was tapped in the waning days of the campaign of gubernatorial candidate Bill McBride, who suffered a crushing defeat in an Oct. 27 debate with incumbent Gov. Jeb Bush.
Mr. Clinton was assigned to excite the black vote in southeast Florida, a Democratic stronghold. But several events accomplished nothing much, and one speech, at Miami-Dade Community College, drew 200 people, who were anything but energized.
"Clinton did what we wanted him to do, but it was too late," says Bob Poe, chairman of the state Democratic Party.
Despite the fact that Mr. Clinton spent 48 hours in Florida visiting all the right places church services, college rallies the effort did not draw the black vote that Mr. McBride needed. A poll of key precincts in Florida found that black voter turnout fell from 72 percent in the 2000 presidential race to 43 percent in last week's election. Mr. McBride was defeated 57 percent to 42 percent, with 1 percent of the vote going to a third-party candidate.
Pollster John Zogby says that his surveys found no evidence of a Clinton boost in any contest.
In Florida, where Democrats viewed the defeat of Jeb Bush as revenge for Election 2000, the hopes were especially high for a Clinton impact.
"People said at the time that [Mr. Clinton] was going to Florida and he would be magic," Mr. Zogby says. But the debate had already damaged the McBride campaign, and Mr. Clinton's presence was not enough, Mr. Zogby says. "It was too little, too late."
Democrats defended the scandal-plagued ex-president yesterday, noting that he was sent to races that were close.
"Guess what?" said Jennifer Palmieri, a spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee. "You don't send Bill Clinton to races that are already won by the Democratic candidate. It should be no surprise that he had an uneven record in last week's races, because we use him where he can do the most good, and that is in close races. Overall, President Clinton was tremendously helpful in generating support for Democratic candidates."

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