With Grand Marshal Sophia Loren walking ahead of him and thickets of Mondale-Ferraro placards waving on all sides, Vice President Bush marched at the front of the Columbus Day parade here today and said of the reception: "I like it."
"Mondale! Mondale!" the crowd roared as Bush started the parade at 44th St. on Fifth Avenue. "Pay your taxes!" a man bellowed as the vice president paraded past Scribners' book store on 48th. As Bush strolled past The Plaza Hotel, a trumpet sounded taps and a small boy displayed a handmade sign reading: "Give George a new job."
The enthusiasm for Democratic presidential nominee Walter F. Mondale came as some polls indicated that voters thought Mondale won Sunday night's debate with President Reagan. But Bush's aides said a survey by GOP pollster Richard B. Wirthlin showed that Reagan won the debate and that there is no need for Bush to shift strategy for the vice-presidential debate with Rep. Geraldine A. Ferraro (D-N.Y.) on Thursday.
On the flight to New York for the parade, Bush's wife, Barbara, took a playful slap at Ferraro. Telling reporters that she and her husband do not try to play down their wealth, Barbara Bush smiled broadly and added: "Not like that $4 million -- I can't say it, but it rhymes with rich."
She was referring to Ferraro, who recently disclosed that she and her husband, John A. Zaccaro, have a net worth of $3.8 million. Bush disclosed that he and his wife have a net worth of $2.1 million. Barbara Bush's remark came after she said it was unfair of Mondale and Ferraro to criticize Bush for paying only 12.8 percent of his income in federal taxes last year.
Mondale press secretary Maxine Isaacs, calling Barbara Bush's remark "in poor taste," said, "It sounds to me like an attempt at a lighthearted comment that wasn't very funny. And it was very disrespectful."
Barbara Bush subsequently reached Ferraro by telephone and apologized, according to Peter Teeley, the vice president's press secretary.
The vice president returned to Washington after the parade to practice for the debate with Ferraro. Rep. Lynn M. Martin (R-Ill.) stood in as his opponent. Teeley said Bush plans to be himself in the debate -- "knowledgeable, prepared and forthright."
Teeley said Bush was not discouraged by his reception here. He said unions and Democratic leaders appeared to have recruited much of the crowd. Mondale and Ferraro marched about eight blocks behind Bush.
"We're not at all disappointed about coming here," Teeley said. "Whenever you come into the heart of a Democratic stronghold and you're not booed off the street, you feel pretty good."
At a few points along the route, an ever-smiling Bush spotted a clutch of Reagan-Bush signs and waved vigorously or flashed a thumbs-up sign. When the crowd chanted, "Four more weeks," Bush cupped his hand to his ear as if he could not hear and yelled back in cheerleader fashion: "Four more years!