. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Clinton Rides Rails to Convention

CHICAGO -- Democrats set to kick off their 1996 convention Monday, eager to exorcise the ghosts of their notorious 1968 gathering in Chicago and to launch President Bill Clinton on the way to a second term in the White House.


With Clinton leading Republican challenger Bob Dole in two new weekend polls by 5 and 12 percentage points, one of the biggest Democratic problems will be to create enough news to persuade voters to pay attention.


The president did his part by embarking Sunday on a four-day Harry Truman-style whistle-stop train tour through the American heartland, stopping each day to unveil a new policy initiative.


Day one found the president chugging through coal-rich Appalachian hills in West Virginia and Kentucky, past cornfields, cow pastures, dilapidated barns and mobile homes, and people waving flags.


At a sunset rally before several thousand people in Chillicothe, Ohio, Clinton drove home his theme of the day -- that Dole's proposed 15 percent income tax cut was irresponsible and would drive the country towards bankruptcy.


Clinton was in a feisty mood, which continued in a CNN interview on Sunday evening in which he angrily blasted Republicans for hounding many of his staff and associates over the Whitewater affair.


"I think it is outrageous that these middle class people have had their lives wrecked by pure, naked raw politics," Clinton said angrily.


Dole meanwhile dropped by a Chicago suburb to lambast the Clinton administration's record in the war on drugs, before heading for a brief vacation in Santa Barbara, California, leaving the spotlight to the Democrats for the next four days.


The Democrats have a hard act to follow after Republicans produced a slick, well-orchestrated display of unity and harmony at their San Diego convention nearly two weeks ago.


With some of their most riveting orators of the past, like former New York Governor Mario Cuomo and former Texas Governor Ann Richards, now on the sidelines after voters threw them out of office in 1994, Democrats will be showcasing lesser-known names as well as personalities drawn from outside politics.


The main draw on the first night of the convention, scheduled to begins Monday evening, will be movie star Christopher Reeve, paralyzed from the neck down after being thrown from a horse. Also speaking was Sarah Brady, wife of former President Ronald Reagan's press secretary, who became a gun control activist after her husband James was partially paralyzed in a 1981 assassination attempt on Reagan.


The Republican convention drew the lowest television audience on record for such an event but still achieved its desired effect of giving Dole a substantial boost in the polls.


Despite his lead, two new surveys showed Clinton could use a similar convention "bounce."


An ABC poll of likely voters showed Clinton leading Dole 47 to 42 percent, with Texas billionaire Ross Perot trailing on 7 percent. A CNN poll of registered voters gave Clinton 50 percent to Dole's 38.


There is a sense in Chicago of events coming full circle with this convention. In 1968, with the Vietnam War raging, brutal police wielding billyclubs and spraying teargas attacked thousands of youthful anti-war protesters.


Now, the postwar "baby boomers" who protested then have become the establishment, long hair has given way to baldness, marijuana to heartburn medicine and the police have undergone sensitivity training courses.