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Big-draw Bill gives Bush heartache
- After surgery, ex-President campaigns for Kerry & pulls huge crowds

Washington, Oct. 26: One week before Americans elect their next commander-in-chief, former President Bill Clinton has transformed the year-long, lacklustre poll campaign into something akin to a cliffhanger between India and Pakistan on the cricket pitch.

Yesterday, Clinton, recovering from his heart surgery seven weeks ago, hit the stump in Philadelphia, drawing a crowd of more than one lakh people in this country where an audience of 2,000 at an election rally is considered a big draw.

Thousands of Americans left their jobs on Monday afternoon, travelling to Philadelphia, a city which is symbolic for many Americans with the signing of the US constitution 217 years ago.

In a rare display of affection for any American politician since John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, they crammed Philadelphia's sidewalks up to 15 persons deep for a glimpse of Clinton, closing streets and virtually shutting down the entire city during its normally busy lunch hour.

As the crowd roared to cheer America's 42nd president, confetti rained on the stage and Bruce Springsteen's No Surrender, presidential candidate John Kerry's theme song, filled the air.

Kerry introduced Clinton as 'the last duly elected President of the US', a reference to the way the Supreme Court facilitated the appointment of George W. Bush to the White House in 2000.

Clinton, his voice weaker after the surgery, slightly pale and thinner by 7 kg, was so moved by the rapturous reception that he told the crowd: 'If this isn't good for my heart, I don't know what is.'

In the evening, he worked the same magic with crowds in Miami where Haitians, Asians, Blacks and Cubans stood together in a rare display of unity to listen to and cheer Clinton.

He is campaigning today in West Palm Beach, Florida, which was the scene of a protracted vote counting battle between Bush and his Democratic rival Al Gore after the election in 2000.

Gore is also campaigning for Kerry in the final campaign week in Florida, which may yet decide the outcome of next week's election.

Bush won Florida and the presidency by 537 votes, but the state is up for grabs this year.

Clinton will campaign in Nevada on Friday and in New Mexico on Saturday: both states are too close to call and Democrats expect that Clinton will make the difference in Kerry's favour on polling day.

Two days before the election, Clinton will campaign in his home state of Arkansas, a state that was considered to be solidly in the Bush camp, but is seen as slipping away in the run-up to election day.

Subject to permission from his doctors, Clinton will also campaign in Ohio and Colorado, two other swing states. All his public appearances are either during the day or early evening since doctors do not want the former President to stay up late.

Clinton's unexpected show on the stump has rattled the Republicans. Bush adviser and chief poll strategist Karl Rove said: 'They had to roll Clinton out of the operating room and onto the campaign trail to help Kerry.'

In a reflection of how Clinton has suddenly affected the course of this presidential poll, Republicans reminded voters yesterday that it is Kerry who is on the Democratic ticket and not Clinton.

At his appearances yesterday, Clinton showed that illness had not affected his famous wit and repartee.

Kerry told the audience that as they were driving towards the rally, he had asked Clinton whether there was anything in common between him and Bush.

Pat came Clinton's reply: 'In eight days and 12 hours, Bush and I will both be former Presidents.'

Clinton told his audience: 'From time to time, I have been called the Comeback Kid. In eight days, John Kerry is going to make America the comeback country.'

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