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Selling Clinton.

It's Taking Millions To Develop And Get Out The Message; Supporters Hope It Will Propel The Messenger To The White House

The business of national politics has transformed a once-vacant Little Rock office building into a warren of activity.

The organized chaos is focused on propelling Gov. Bill Clinton from the governor's mansion to the White House.

A coed crew of four receptionists at 1220 W. Third St. juggles an endless string of calls. Their pace would draw nods of appreciation from air-traffic controllers at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport.

Upstairs in a crowded hallway, a repairman overhauls a copy machine while an anxious campaign staffer awaits his diagnosis.

Other workers, bearing telephone messages and correspondence, dodge in and out of the narrow passageways after emerging from cubbyhole offices.

Other staffers are so engrossed in their telephone conversations that they are oblivious to the flow of foot traffic around them.

In another part of the building, campaign staffers take a brief respite to pass around a takeout order from Bojangle's Famous Chicken 'N' Biscuits.

This former home of the state Department of Higher Education is the nerve center of Clinton's presidential campaign. The purposeful strides and serious expressions inside reflect the fact that millions of dollars are at stake.

It's an intense yet guarded atmosphere.

Curious and even suspicious glances follow the movement of two visitors. Some conversations die to a whisper when the visitors are identified as members of the press.

Staffers talk in hushed tones with Craig Smith, a deputy campaign manager.

"I need to talk with you later," one remarks.

A few clutch documents more closely, added protection against the threat of prying eyes.

The wariness is the result of growing media coverage of Gennifer Flowers and continued questioning of Clinton's track record observing the Seventh Commandment.

Whether they like him or not, more and more voters across the country are learning who Bill Clinton is as a result of that media coverage. The job of educating them "properly" is the responsibility of those in this office.

In effect, they're selling Bill Clinton.

And it's not cheap.

The Clinton campaign raised $1.5 million in January.

That's quite a fund-raising performance considering it took six months to assemble a 1991 war chest of $3.5 million.

The Clinton campaign, which has raised more than $7 million when federal matching funds are included, is drawing favorable reviews from top consultants. One of them is Bob Squier of Squier Eskew Knapp & Ochs Communications in Washington.

"They're running a campaign of grace under pressure," says Squier, who has done work for Sens. Dale Bumpers and David Pryor, both D-Ark. "And it's an enormous amount of pressure.

"If a campaign is designed to test the presidential mettle of a candidate, he has passed his first big test. They've done well."

Squier, who is also a political commentator for NBC News, says Clinton understands better than the other four major Democratic candidates that the message is more important than the messenger.

"People are hungry for real answers to real problems," he says.

Waves of Clinton backers from Arkansas have journeyed to New Hampshire wearing "Another Arkansas Traveler For Bill Clinton" buttons to help push that message. The grassroots testimonial program also will be used in Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Missouri.

More Money, More Money

To distance himself from interest groups, Clinton is not accepting money from political action committees.

How much money is the governor leaving on the table because of his decision to rely on individual supporters?

Maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Or maybe very little.

That's because the Clinton campaign is more than willing to accept donations from individuals who normally are allied with PACs.

"One of the big success stories of the campaign is ... our ability to raise funds," says David Wilhelm, Clinton's campaign manager.

Thus far, the fund-raising strength has been built on Clinton's strong support in Arkansas. For every dollar raised by the Clinton campaign as of Jan. 1, 31 cents came from Arkansas. That added up $1.1 million.

December's "Winter Wonderland" fund-raising event at Little Rock generated most of that money. The ballroom of Arkansas' Excelsior Hotel was filled with more than 1,000 guests who paid $500 each to attend.

"Winter Wonderland" raised $900,000, making it the largest political fund-raiser in Arkansas history. It also appears to be the biggest Democratic fund-raiser thus far in the 1992 campaign.

As the Clinton campaign progresses, the flow of incoming money should shift to other Southern states and New York, Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts and California.

Still, campaign officials expect to take in $300,000-$400,000 from Arkansas supporters who will gather in homes across the state to watch the New Hampshire returns on the night of Feb. 18.

Where's Money Going?

According to Clinton's campaign manager, more than half of the money raised has been devoted to saturating the New Hampshire market with television advertising. In addition to buying time on New Hampshire stations, the Clinton campaign also is purchasing time on Boston and Portland, Maine, stations.

The ads focus on specific proposals with detailed copies of those proposals available at libraries across New Hampshire.

"I believe you deserve more than 30-second spots and vague promises," Clinton says as he looks into the camera.

The Clinton campaign is using the Washington media consulting firm GMMG & Associates to package its message.

"Bill is his own best strategist and advertising consultant," says Frank Greer of GMMG.

"Bill Clinton is not the kind of candidate that anyone markets," a high-ranking campaign aide adds. "Bill and Hillary have a very strong notion of what they're about, their beliefs and what they can offer the country."

But marketing the Clintons they are.

In addition to GMMG, the Clinton campaign is relying on the talents of Carville & Begala, a Washington political consulting firm. The two-man shop is described by James Carville as "a Cajun and Hungarian guy" with ideas and energy.

Paul Begala, a 30-year-old native of Sugarland, Texas, helps coordinate communication efforts.

Carville, a 47-year-old native of Baton Rouge, La., serves as a human wall for Clinton to bounce ideas off.

"I was really hired because Clinton didn't want to be the biggest redneck in the campaign," Carville quips.

Actually, Clinton's selection was based on Carville's track record. The firm's roster of clients includes Democratic Sens. John Glenn of Ohio and Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey; Democratic Rep. Dan Glickman of Kansas; and Democratic governors Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, Zell Miller of Georgia and Jim Florio of New Jersey.

Carville and Begala are most famous for engineering last year's biggest political upset, Democrat Harris Wofford's victory over former U.S. Attorney General Richard Thornburgh in Pennsylvania. The Senate race was to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Republican John Heinz.

Clinton approached Carville and his partner in September. They begged off until the Wofford race was completed and then signed on with Clinton in December.

Not surprisingly, Carville has good things to say about the governor's expertise in areas such as education and health care.

"He has dealt with these problems longer than anyone," Carville says. "He is perhaps the most impressive presidential candidate I've seen in my lifetime."

The real test, however, won't involve money or charisma. The biggest challenge will be how Clinton and his campaign staff handle the personal scrutiny that continues to come the governor's way.

That's why they're so nervous at campaign headquarters these days.

The sales job suddenly has become a bit more difficult.

Clinton's Key Campaign Staffers

David Wilhelm, campaign manager.

Wilhelm was campaign manager in Iowa for Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware during Biden's 1988 presidential campaign. He managed Richard M. Daley's past two mayoral races in Chicago.

George Stephanopoulos, deputy campaign manager for communications.

Stephanopoulos works closely with James Carville, the campaign's senior political adviser, and Frank Greer, Clinton's media consultant. He focuses on issues involving paid and earned media.

Craig Smith, deputy campaign manager for Southern and Super Tuesday states.

Smith was Arkansas campaign manager for Gary Hart's 1984 presidential bid and had served on Clinton's gubernatorial staff since 1986.

Caroll Willis, deputy campaign manager for constituency outreach.

A Clinton gubernatorial staffer since 1983, Willis focuses on minority voters.

Bill Morton, national field director.

Morton coordinates the day-to-day operations of various state campaign headquarters. He was an assistant to Ron Brown, chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Bruce Lindsey, campaign director.

Lindsey, a partner in the Wright Lindsey & Jennings law firm at Little Rock, travels with Clinton. He serves as the liaison between officials in the Little Rock campaign headquarters and those on the road.

David Watkins, budget director.

A longtime Clinton friend, Watkins oversees the flow of money.

Rahm Emanuel, finance director. Emanuel held similar posts during two Richard M. Daley campaigns in Chicago.

Stephanie Solien, national political director.

Solien coordinates endorsements from organizations and prominent individuals. She previously represented the state of Washington in Washington, D.C., for Gov. Booth Gardner.

Regan Burk, director of scheduling and advance.

Burk, a former executive director of the Illinois Democratic Party, oversees the logistics of getting Clinton and his entourage to campaign appearances.

Dee Dee Myers, press secretary.

A California native, Myers was press secretary in Frank Jordan's successful 1991 race for mayor of San Francisco.

Richard Mintz, Hillary Clinton's campaign manager.

Mintz was a senior account executive with Ogilvy Adams & Rinehart, an advertising and public relations firm at Washington.

Mark Middleton, Arkansas finance chairman.

Middleton was an attorney with the Little Rock firm Mitchell Williams Selig Gates & Woodyard. He is in charge of raising funds in Arkansas.

Bob Farmer, campaign treasurer.

Farmer was campaign treasurer for John Anderson during his independent presidential campaign in 1980 and was finance chairman for Michael Dukakis' 1988 presidential bid.

Mary Anne Salmon, Arkansas coordinator.

Salmon, a former Clinton gubernatorial staffer, organizes volunteer efforts and assists with raising funds in the state.
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Title Annotation:includes related article; support for Governor Bill Clinton's aspirations for the White House
Author:Waldon, George
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Feb 3, 1992
Words:1657
Previous Article:The road to recovery.
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