WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Bill Clinton, barred by the Constitution from a third term in the White House, said Thursday that Americans ``can get the next best thing'' by electing Democrat Al Gore.
``We've got to win this election,'' the president said, urging members of minority groups to support the vice president. ``I feel very strongly that we're going to win it if our folks vote.''
The president spoke on the Tom Joyner radio show, broadcast nationwide by ABC Radio Networks. His appearance was part of a determined effort to energize black and Hispanic voters.
There were cheers of ``four more years'' as Clinton was introduced, and Joyner told the president, ``Sincerely, it would be nice if we could get four more years from you. It's been a good eight years for us.''
``You can get the next best thing,'' the president replied, offering testimonials for Gore, his lieutenant for eight years. While Clinton suggested that Gore would extend the reach of the Clinton presidency, the vice president has been running on the argument that he is his own man with his own policies.
Trying not to be eclipsed by Clinton, Gore has not campaigned with the president since the Democratic convention in July. In cooperation with Gore's staff, Clinton has restricted his own campaign travels.
Clinton acknowledged that the presidential race is razor close.
``All these polls that show it close and show Governor Bush a point or two ahead _ all those polls are premised on an assumption that African- American and Hispanic voters and first-generation immigrants will not vote in the same percentages that the Republican base will vote,'' the president said.
Looking back, Clinton said, ``John Kennedy won by four-tenths of 1 percent. Hubert Humphrey lost by a percent. Jimmy Carter won by a percent. One vote out of a hundred. This race could well be that close.''