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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Clinton Hypes Fall In Budget Deficit

ST. LOUIS -- President Bill Clinton headed down the electoral home stretch Monday taking credit for a bit of sunny economic news: America's smallest budget deficit since 1981.

"We have more evidence today that our economy is on the right track,'' he declared.

Opening a campaign swing through the Midwest, Clinton announced that the deficit for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 was $107.3 billion. The White House said the drop was due largely to a stronger economy than the administration had projected.

Speaking over a few hecklers, Clinton pointed to the deficit number and said, "So today, Missouri, you don't have to listen to the shouting. You can look at the showing.''

Republicans said it was their work that had brought the deficit down.

"This is a huge credit to the common sense Republican Congress which fought for spending constraints,'' party chairman Haley Barbour said.

But the administration disagreed.

"The spending reduction since the Republican majority's been in place has been relatively modest compared to the overall total, although we have been able to work with them in the last year on a mutually acceptable budget,'' said budget director Joseph Stiglitz, who accompanied Clinton here.

With the deficit falling four years in a row, the administration said Clinton has more than fulfilled his promise to slash the deficit by half in four years.

The ever-diminishing deficit was one item on the four-point sales pitch Clinton was making as he courted voters from the Washington suburbs to politically vital Pennsylvania and the Midwest in the final days of the campaign against Republican Bob Dole.

In a reference to Dole's recent pleas for American voters to "wake up,'' Clinton said the budget figures "prove America is awake and moving in the right direction for the 21st century.''

Dole, meanwhile, is exuding confidence despite trailing badly in the polls just over a week before the Nov. 5 presidential election.

"I'm willing to wait up all night on Nov. 5 waiting for California to come in for Bob Dole and Jack Kemp,'' the Republican challenger said Sunday in San Diego. "And on the way home I want to drive by the White House and honk -- I want 'em waking up in there.''

Returning to issues in his all-out bid to win California, Dole planned to attend a rally Monday outside San Diego's City Hall. There, Republicans hoped to boost support for Proposition 209, the state referendum to end race- and sex-based preferences in public hiring, contracting and education.

On Sunday, Dole said such preferences were "absolutely wrong and violate the principles of our Constitution.'' With polls finding Dole lagging in California anywhere from 8 to 20 points behind Clinton, the Republican campaign extended its tour here by one day and floated plans for a last-minute blitz of the state next week.

Dole was aggressively courting Californians with his staunch opposition to affirmative action and illegal immigration. But a Los Angeles Times poll last week cast doubt on that strategy, finding a slim majority -- 54 percent -- in favor of Proposition 209, and only 7 percent who considered illegal immigration a major influence in their ballot choice.