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Perot shifts gears, appears ready to launch campaign


AUSTIN, Texas -- With more than 200,000 signatures to place him on the Texas ballot piled before him, Ross Perot shifted his undeclared presidential candidacy into high gear yesterday, pledging to run an inclusive campaign.

"We are a melting pot," Mr. Perot told a crowd of several thousand backers wilting under the sun, on the steps of the Texas Capitol. "That has always been a great strength. The other parties are now trying to split the meting pot into different pieces, pander to each of the pieces and then wonder why they can't put it back together after the election.

"We will not be a part of that. We're all in this together. Now let me just put it to you in blunt Texas talk. If you hate other people, I don't want your vote. It's that simple."

The admonition didn't seem necessary, however, at a political lovefest of Texans who came from across this broad state to assure that Mr. Perot's name goes before the voters of Texas in November. Some 53,000 signatures of Texans who had not voted in the March 17 primary are required, and about four times that number were boxed and piled before Mr. Perot, ready for delivery to Texas Secretary of State John Hannah.

Officials said it would take two to four weeks to verify whether Mr. Perot had qualified for the Texas ballot, but there appeared little doubt of the outcome. One other state, Tennessee, has already qualified him for its ballot. Mr. Perot at first said he would not run unless he was on all 50 state ballots, but he has since backed off that stance.

After yesterday's rally, as supporters pressed around him, Mr. Perot said he would declare his candidacy "whenever we're ready," and then added: "Pretty soon." Judging from the crisp and orderly organization on display for this event, the Perot non-campaign already seems more than ready.

Before Mr. Perot was to speak, a single-engine propeller plane flew over downtown Austin, tugging a banner that read "Perot for President." Then, behind three cowgirls on horseback, a 10-car motorcade and a parade of more than 1,000 backers stepped off en route to the Capitol, up Austin's broad Congress Avenue. About 20 supporters side by side toted a long banner that read, "America is Ready for You, Ross Perot," as the marchers chanted "Goodbye Bush, Hello Perot."

A few minutes later, the chant changed to "No More Bush!" In it all, the prospective Democratic nominee, Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas, seemed irrelevant to the proceedings.

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