Can Clinton win? Yes, if he corrals the voters who deserted the Democrats after 1976. From Northern cities to Southern towns, many "Reagan Democrats" are giving the Arkansas governor another look. Clinton must also turn out black and pro-choice voters. Here's a look at several voters considering Clinton:
A RELUCTANT VOTE FOR `JIMMY CARTER WITH MOUSSE'
Ed Crayton voted Democratic in 1984 and 1988, and come November, he'll pull the lever for Bill Clinton. But only because the 33-year-old Louisiana-born San Franciscan views the Democrat as the lesser of three evils. "I have to vote for Clinton," he says. "It's like taking castor oil."
Crayton, a lifelong Democrat who works for Goodby, Berlin & Silverstein, a San Francisco advertising agency, calls Clinton "Jimmy Carter with mousse" and mocks his claim that he didn't inhale when he tried marijuana at Oxford. "That was just stupid," he says. The reefer madness reinforced his sense of mistrust. "Just when you think you've got him rehabilitated," Crayton smiles, "your car's missing."
Another thing that bugs him about Clinton--not to mention Tipper Gore, his running mate's wife--is their low opinion of rap music. Crayton thinks rap highlights the poor state of race relations, which he considers a top issue, along with abortion, the economy, and AIDS. "If you listen to rap music," he says, "you can find out what young black Americans are thinking."
The other candidates look even worse to Crayton. He wouldn't for a moment consider voting for George Bush. But his first impression of Ross Perot was positive. "Texans aren't slick," he says. "They swagger." And despite Perot's blundering on racial issues, he believed the billionaire near-candidate "empathized with the disenfranchised."
But Perot lost Crayton's vote when he said he'd fire homosexuals in high government posts. Crayton saw that as "an excuse to weed out people they don't like." Besides, he says, Perot is scary. "I'd be so afraid we'd all wake up with a dress code one day," he says.
In the end, Crayton offers a tepid endorsement of Clinton. Behind his "weird personality," Crayton believes, is a man with some vision for solving the nation's ills. And that's a lot more than he can say for Clinton's two opponents.