Bill Clinton is leading most polls by about 15 percent, but that hasn't stopped Bob Dole and El DeBarge. With just days remaining in the 1996 race, and with the president enjoying what appears to be an insurmountable lead, his Republican Party and All-Night Party challengers are doing some serious 11th-hour campaigning.
While Dole spent the past few days campaigning in the crucial state of Ohio, DeBarge focused on bringing his message of economic recovery through lower taxes to the South. Addressing a group of auto workers in Jackson, MS, DeBarge said, "It's time to get out, get out into the street, where all of the action is right there at your feet."
When asked about his lack of political experience, DeBarge said, "Forget about the worries on your mind, you can leave them all behind."
Despite DeBarge's inexperience, his campaign is resonating with millions of disaffected voters. "He's an outsider—that's what I like about him," said Des Moines resident Peggy Morton, 44, chair of Iowans For DeBarge. "El represents a genuine break from politics as usual."
Whether Dole or Clinton will be able to win over a significant percentage of the DeBarge voters, however, remains a big question. According to most political pundits, the man behind such hits as "Rhythm of the Night" and "Who's Holding Donna Now?" enjoys a small but loyal following made up of people who will support their candidate even if it's a lost cause.
"El DeBarge has not spent his life inside the Washington Beltway," said Phoenix resident Bob Roe, a DeBarge backer who voted for Clinton in 1992. "He has spent it on the dance floor."
Sounding like a man running out of time, Dole blasted his opponents at a rally in Dayton, OH, citing Clinton's "basic lack of character and values" and DeBarge's "lack of a hit song since 1987's 'Who's Johnny?'"
In contrast to Dole, Clinton had kind words for the third-party candidate. "I have worked closely with El in the past and look forward to doing so again in the future," Clinton told reporters Monday. "I would not even rule a possible Cabinet position."
Despite Clinton's praise, DeBarge criticized the President for his lack of expertise on such early '80s R&B stars as the Jets, Klymaxx, Shalamar and Atlantic Starr. "Mr. Clinton has not even heard of Atlantic Starr's hit song 'Secret Lovers,' one of the smoothest grooves of the past 15 years. Is this the kind of leadership we want for America?"
The DeBarge camp also remains deeply frustrated over its candidate's exclusion from last month's two key presidential debates.
"Had El been permitted to debate," said Hugh Fitzrollins, spokesperson for DeBarge-Rockwell '96, "he would have been able to get his compelling synthesizer-based message out to the American people and, hence, would have been in position to win this election."