Clinton Rides Scientific Ground Swell

1 November 1996 8:00 pm

WASHINGTON--It's Clinton by a landslide--at least in terms of which campaign staff did a better job in lining up scientists and engineers behind their man.

On 30 October Scientists and Engineers for Clinton/Gore rolled out a list of more than 500 researchers and policy-makers--including 14 Nobelists--who want the president to serve a second term. In contrast, a spokesman for the Dole/Kemp campaign says that "a couple of dozen" scientists have been folded into a larger database labeled "Educators for Dole/Kemp" but that it's "impossible'' to tease out their names.

Why the discrepancy? The power of incumbency is certainly a factor. "I volunteered my name because the White House has made a commitment to keep the U.S. in the forefront of all fields of science and because of the [1994] conference on basic science," says physicist Daniel Kleppner of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "It's a way of acknowledging my gratitude for what they have done."

Tapping scientists also seems to be a higher priority in the Clinton campaign, which has a person working full-time on the outreach effort. Dole's efforts, by comparison, seem haphazard; it took the campaign a full week to reply to a reporter's inquiry about such a list, and several Dole staffers gave contradictory answers.

William Nierenberg, director emeritus of Scripps Institution of Oceanography and an adviser to the Dole/Kemp campaign, contends that voters aren't swayed by such endorsements. But a list, he says, can be a good starting point for filling posts in the next administration. Using that criterion, the former senator from Kansas will have a lot of catching up to do on personnel matters if he is able to pull off an upset victory on Tuesday.

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