In a last-minute bid to boost the chances of cash-strapped Democratic candidates, President Clinton campaigned in two states, shaking hands, hugging children and urging voters to "drag three, four of your friends along" to the polls Tuesday.
"I won't be here to drag people to the polls, but you can," said Clinton, his voice hoarse after spending Sunday campaigning in New York and New Jersey and the previous two days hobnobbing in Florida with rich Democratic donors to collect $3 million for the party.The president was wrapping up his campaign forays at a rally in nearby Alexandria, Va., for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Don Beyer, who, like other Democrats running Tuesday, has raised and spent less money than Republicans.
Beyer's Republican opponent, Jim Gilmore, has a $2 million fund-raising edge - all of it from the national GOP.
The Democratic National Committee, burdened by a $15 million debt, did not spend the same kind of money as the GOP to support candidates.
The DNC's money troubles were even joked about during a campaign rally for New York City mayoral candidate Ruth Messinger.
"Sometimes I give speeches to business groups who actually pay me," said comedian Al Franken, who introduced the president to a crowd of 500 at a Manhattan hotel. "I speak to Democrats for free and everybody's happy."
Clinton attended a pre-rally fund-raiser for Messinger that took in $175,000.
But at this late stage, the underdog Democrats were counting on presidential star power, vilification of the Republicans and voter turnout to carry them to victory.
"It gives you the adrenaline you need for that last kick forward," said Messinger, considered a long shot to unseat New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
Stumping for congressional candidate Eric Vitaliano earlier in New York's Staten Island, Clinton made a get-out-the-vote pitch, telling a rain-soaked crowd of 1,500, "Make sure you show up, and drag three or four of your friends along" to the polls.