Clinton says stakes are high in presidential election
Praises Gore's debate performance
JACKSONVILLE, Florida (CNN) -- President Clinton said Wednesday that everything is "on the line" in the upcoming election, suggesting a victory for Republican nominee George W. Bush would spell a return to the economic "mess" he and Vice President Al Gore "cleaned up."
In a rousing fund-raising speech for Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Florida, Clinton said he thought Gore did a "great job" in Tuesday night's presidential debate and drew specific attention to Bush's contention that "the economy has done more for Clinton-Gore than Clinton-Gore has done for the economy."
President Clinton waves as he boards Air Force One at the Miami International Airport in Miami, Florida, Wednesday.
Clinton said he was "tickled" by Gore's response that hard-working Americans, whom Bush credited for the nation's economic revival, were working just as hard during the 1990-91 recession. And he had blunt words for Republican ads claiming Gore's proposal to add a prescription drug proposal to Medicare would force senior citizens into a into a "government-run HMO."
"Folks, it's a bunch of bull," Clinton said.
"They say that our seniors are going to be forced into a government-run HMO. They paint this big dark picture about it. Have you seen the ad? It's unbelievable," he added.
Medicare, the government-run program that finances health care for Americans 65 and older, already contracts services with health maintenance organizations. Seniors could conceivably obtain drug coverage from a Medicare HMO under the Gore drug plan.
Although relegated to the sidelines of the presidential campaign, Clinton's election-year rhetoric has taken a harsh turn with Bush's recent rebound in the polls to pull even with Gore.
Earlier Wednesday, the president conceded at a breakfast for first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton -- who is running for the U.S. Senate in New York -- that "both candidates acquitted themselves very well."
The Florida fund-raiser was expected to raise $150,000 for Brown's re-election campaign. Before Clinton took the stage, Brown rallied the largely African-American crowd by warning that a Bush presidency would threaten affirmative action.
She rooted her criticism in former President Bush's appointment of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's support for One Florida, an effort to overhaul state affirmative action programs that has drawn harsh criticism from the state's African-American community.
"Papa Bush gave us Clarence Thomas, baby Bush gave us One Florida. I have no idea what George W. would do," Brown said.
The president also pushed to strengthen the Gore campaign in Florida, reminding Democrats that they gave him his first win in his bid for the presidency --- a straw poll victory in December 1991.