Even with the luxury of no opponent in Monday's Iowa Democratic caucuses, President Clinton tried to whip up a strong vote by the party faithful to stand in contrast to the Republicans.
"I want Americans to believe they make a difference," he said.In two frenzied days of Iowa campaigning, Clinton drew huge crowds in numbers that towered over the Republicans' turnouts. In a state soaked with negative GOP ads, he kept to the high road and didn't carve up the Republicans.
He left that up to his Iowa sidekick, Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin. Warming up audiences, Har-kin said the Democrats' real opponent in 1996 is clear: "It's Newt Gingrich and his radical right-wing agenda."
And to the delight of audiences, Harkin declared: "Actually, I like to call them Newtie and the blow-hards."
Clinton didn't object to the jabs or the jokes. "That's the third time I've heard him tell those jokes, and they get funnier every time," he told a capacity audience of 8,200 at Drake University Sunday before returning to Washington.
A camera crew from the Clinton-Gore campaign trailed the president around Iowa, gathering material for ads from Clinton's meetings with farmers, students and flood victims and recording his enthusiastic welcome from audiences at three colleges.
Clinton will meet with more disaster victims this week, visiting Oregon and Washington on Wednes-day to inspect damage from heavy flooding. In another response, he approved relief funds for inundated counties in Idaho.
The Iowa trip - and another visit to New Hampshire planned for Saturday - are just warmups for Clinton, who hasn't officially declared his re-election candidacy. For now, he is just showing the flag and energizing Democrats in states where Republicans have dominated the news as the campaign curtain rises.
The president wouldn't say who he preferred as his GOP opponent in November. "One of the things that I have found about this is that no one knows who can beat someone else before the actual event occurs," said Clinton, who in 1992 defeated incumbent George Bush, once considered unbeatable.
Four years ago, Clinton came in fourth in the Iowa caucuses as Democrats rallied behind Harkin's favorite-son candidacy. "This is my last chance, and I would really like to do well," he said Sunday in appealing for votes. "I would appreciate it if you would do that."