Like a triumphant boxer, newly crowned Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis has drawn an enthusiasm from crowds on a cross-country "victory tour" this weekend that was missing from his earlier campaign stops.
At a rally here on Saturday attended by what police said were 8,000 to 10,000 people, Dukakis and his running mate, Sen. Lloyd Bentsen of Texas, predicted they would defeat Republican George Bush in the November election."Good jobs, good schools, basic health insurance, decent and affordable housing, that's what the American dream is all about," Dukakis said.
"And that's what Mike Dukakis and Lloyd Bentsen are all about, and that's what the Democratic Party is all about. And that's why we're going to win in November," he told cheering partisans.
A Newsweek poll released on Saturday showed registered voters favoring Dukakis by a margin of 55 to 38 percent over Bush in the aftermath of the Democratic convention in Atlanta.
The poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points, indicated strong black support for the Democratic nominee and showed voters felt he would outperform Bush in virtually every area except foreign affairs.
Nonetheless, on fringes of the crowd here were dozens of anti-abortion protesters criticizing Dukakis and Bentsen's support of legal abortions.
"Real Greeks don't kill children" read several signs.
Dukakis reminded his audience, a crowd made up of many children and grandchildren of immigrants, that he was the son of Greek immigrants,
Before speaking, Dukakis and his wife, Kitty, were presented flowers and gifts from children and adults in native costumes representing Greeks, Assyrians, Armenians, Scots, Dutch, Portugese and Hmong - a mountain tribe from Laos.
The area is generally conservative and expected to vote Republican in the November election. But in coming here Dukakis was carrying out a pledge to yield no ground to Bush.
No Democrat has been elected this century without carrying California.
Arriving at an airport in this San Joaquin Valley agricultural area on Friday night, the 54-year-old Massachusetts governor and his wife drew several hundred screaming fans pressed against a chain-link fence craning for a glimpse of the candidate.
Several told reporters they had waited in the warm night for over two hours. "It's a chance to view history," said one man, who never did see him over the crowd of reporters.
The enthusiasm was also evident when some 7,000 people came to an outdoor rally in Houston and when about 1,500 people, most of them Hispanic, waited for hours in blistering, 100 degree heat on an airport tarmac in McAllen, Texas, on Friday near the Mexican border.
"I've been waiting for 3 1/2 hours," said a perspiring Maggie Champion of Pharr, Texas, who brought her 5-year-old son to see Dukakis in McAllen. "But it's worth it."