By Ceci Connolly
"He is not going anywhere and he is not going to be goaded into resigning," said super lawyer Stanley Chesley. "He is our president and we stand tall with him."
Clinton, shifting from the contrition of recent weeks, replied: "It is not about me; it is about the people of this country. It is about their children, their future and our common efforts."
But just beyond Chesley's property line, the mood could not have been more different. From protesters along his motorcade route to harsh calls for resignation by the local newspaper, it became evident that no matter where the president goes he is liable to confront those in the nation who are frustrated and exhausted by the controversy over his relationship with Monica S. Lewinsky and his attempts to keep it secret.
"Mr. President, we would like a word with you," screamed a four-column headline in the Republican-leaning Cincinnati Enquirer, which termed his fund-raising visit here odious. "Cincinnatians are angry and disappointed with the mess you're in."
The paper provided a provocative invitation to its readers: If you had a chance to share a limo ride with the president, what would you say? "People wanted to hug you," the paper told Clinton. "People wanted to slap you. Some wanted to kick you out of the limousine."
Many of the 1,464 responses were printed in five full pages of coverage, a remarkable accounting of one city's angst over Clinton's affair and subsequent lies. There were messages of support, of sympathy and of suspicion that Clinton was set up. Others said they were disgusted by the deceit, unimpressed by the apologies and angered by the prolonged battle.
Even Clinton's supporters offered gut-wrenching accounts. "When he said he didn't have sex with that woman, I believed him," said Ann Richburg, a retired teacher who voted for Clinton.
Clinton made no mention of the tumult. Instead, he attempted to reassure the Democratic Party faithful at a $5,000-a-plate lunch that he is holding up well under the strain.
"Hillary and I are doing fine working on what we need to be working on," he said. "What I'm concerned about are the rest of the people who live in this country."
The president asserted that the real scandal is a "Washington obsessed with itself instead of America."
But Alfred Tuchfarber, director of the Ohio Poll based at the University of Cincinnati, said Clinton's affair with a young White House aide has caused great turmoil in the electorate that may not be easily quelled.
"You find the same sorts of complexity and almost seeming contradictions" in Ohio as elsewhere, Tuchfarber said. "His approval ratings are high, but they don't trust him and they don't think he's honest."
Clinton's four-hour tour in Cincinnati illustrated the treacherous path for Democrats this fall.
When Air Force One touched down at the airport in the home county of Ken Lucas, the Democratic nominee in Kentucky's Fourth District, Lucas did not attend. Lucas said that if Clinton has perjured himself or obstructed justice, "then he should resign for the good of the country."
Cincinnati Mayor Roxanne Qualls greeted Clinton at the airport, despite worries that her Republican opponent "will have tons of film if he wants" to use in negative ads.
Only one area Democrat seemed comfortable about joining Clinton: Kentucky Attorney General Chris Gorman, who issued a press release pressuring his opponent, popular GOP Rep. Anne Northup, to use her influence with House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) to not use "Ken Starr's report as a political tool."
Clinton could not have chosen a more critical region to visit. When it comes to control of the House, this is ground zero. Eight of the districts in the Ohio Valley make up the highest concentration of competitive House races; Democrats need to pick up 11 seats nationally to retake the House.
Neither Qualls nor Gorman spoke at the luncheon, which raised about $250,000 for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
In Boston, the president raised $1 million more tonight at an exuberant dinner designed to woo the most generous Democrats.
"Massachusetts was Clinton country in 1992," Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) boomed into the microphone. "It was Clinton country in 1996, and it is Clinton country tonight in 1998."
Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), who has harshly criticized Clinton's behavior, said, "I am here to stand and fight with Bill Clinton and Al Gore for the things we all believe in."
Despite the peppy atmosphere, there were some troubling signs here. The state House speaker, Democrat Thomas Finneran, told the Boston Herald he had no intention of joining Clinton.
"Bill Clinton almost makes Nixon look like a moral giant the way things are going," he said.
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