DALLAS -- With signs that the presidential race is tightening, at least partly because of his influence, Ross Perot announced yesterday that he was intensifying his efforts with new purchases of television time and his first conventional campaign foray.
Mr. Perot's only public appearances during his 23-day presidential campaign have been at the three debates. But he said yesterday that he would attend rallies tomorrow in Flemington, N.J., and Pittsburgh.
Meanwhile, the Bush and Clinton campaigns backed away from their public predictions that Mr. Perot could not win, which only seemed to hand ammunition to Mr. Perot in his campaign against the political establishment.
President Bush and Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton retrained their sights on each other. Mr. Bush warned voters in Kentucky and Florida that Mr. Clinton was a "tax and spend" Democrat. Mr. Clinton urged voters in traditionally Republican Nevada to "go beyond the bounds of party."
Mr. Clinton's running mate, Sen. Albert Gore Jr., spoke gingerly when asked about Mr. Perot yesterday. "There are some ideas that Ross Perot has advanced that we have also advanced," he said, speaking to high school students in Pensacola, Fla. "I have respect for him personally. I just think his plan is wrong for the country."
Vice President Dan Quayle spent the day in the crucial states of Pennsylvania and Delaware. He announced to aerospace workers at a Boeing Helicopters plant in Philadelphia that the Bush administration was committing $1.4 billion to the troubled V-22 Osprey aircraft and promising bank workers in Newark, Del., that sticking with the Republican ticket would ensure better times.
The announcement of Mr. Perot's travel plans thrilled his supporters in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. "It's going to be like seeing a Virgin Mary or an apparition or something," said Jay Goodwin, the manager of the Perot campaign office in Edison, N.J.
Dr. Timothy Holloway, a Ligonier, Pa., dentist who is the Perot campaign's coordinator in southwestern Pennsylvania, said he had to "hit myself in the chest to prove that this was really happening" when Mr. Perot's national political director called with the news yesterday morning.
"I had a patient in the chair when the call came in and the patient said, 'Please take three deep breaths before you start working on me again,' " Dr. Holloway said. "Fortunately, it was a procedure that was relatively easy -- replacing a crown -- and I was already halfway through it."
The Perot campaign also said it would spend $940,000 to buy an hour of time on ABC on Monday night, just before "Monday Night Football," for Mr. Perot's latest television presentation. Between Thursday and Monday, he is placing 150 minutes of programming on network television, most of it gauzy reminiscences about his life and testimonials from his family.
That figure does not include the 60-second Perot advertisements that are flooding the networks and cable television. Federal financial disclosure reports filed this week show that Mr. Perot spent $23.6 million on advertising in the first two weeks of October, virtually double the amount spent by Mr. Bush or Mr. Clinton on their entire campaigns during the same period.
Mr. Perot's trip comes when both the Republican and Democratic campaigns have expressed concern over the sudden improvement in his approval ratings after the presidential debates. But officials with both campaigns said they do not believe Mr. Perot is surging and that he may be near the peak of his support.
"There was a bump off the debates as if he had a convention, but it has been flat since," said Stan Greenberg, Clinton's poll taker. "If this is where it's going to end up, it would be fine."
Yet, for the first time since before the debates, some public tracking polls have shown Mr. Clinton's lead over Mr. Bush dropping into the single digits, with Mr. Perot's support approaching 20 percent. Other polls give Mr. Clinton a more comfortable lead of between 13 and 19 percentage points.
"We are seeing a definite tightening, and some of it is Perot gaining," said Frederic V. Malek, a Bush campaign director.