Walter F. Mondale ended his drive for the presidency today campaigning across America and urging voters to deny the Republicans a "historic mandate" and instead deliver "the greatest upset in history" to the Democrats.
From the valley of his political foe in southern California to the emotional heights of his midwestern homeland, Mondale carried a single message, repeated here before a rousing crowd that crammed a hangar at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to welcome another native son bidding for the nation's highest office.
"Tomorrow, someone will make history. Either they will make history or we will make history," Mondale said. "My fellow Minnesotans and my fellow Americans. Let's make history. Let's build our future. Let's win this election . . . .It's time for America to move on."
An hour earlier, fighting to stave off a landslide predicted by public opinion polls he says he doesn't believe, Mondale faced a wall-to-wall audience in Mason City, Iowa, his first stop on the campaign trail 22 months ago.
"Do you really want to give this crowd a mandate to continue the farm and rural policies that have produced the worst times since the Great Depression here?" he shouted. "What more could they have done to the family farmer than they've done these last four years?"
And hours before that, in Los Angeles, Mondale defined the stakes in the election, telling a crowd of more than 20,000, "The choice is clear. If you let them make history tomorrow, they'll turn your future into a future you never wanted. Don't let them do it. Don't let them do it."
Southern California seemed an odd place for the Minnesota Democrat to hold the last rally that will be seen by most American voters before the polls open Tuesday.
It is far from the agricultural and industrial base of the Northeast and Midwest where Mondale must be a near-unanimous winner to even be in striking distance of Reagan.
But, ironically, California, with its fat prize of 47 electoral votes, has been one of his best states in the preelection polls and a source of optimism today.
"We have an excellent chance of winning it," Mondale campaign chairman James A. Johnson said before the noontime rally began.
The large crowds that have marked the closing days of Mondale's campaign continued here today as the streets were turned into a sea of bobbing red-white-and-blue Mondale-Ferraro placards.
Balloons of all sizes wafted in the California breeze, and folk singers and rock musicians warmed up the crowd before Mondale was introduced by Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.) and Sen. Gary Hart (D-Colo.).
"Tomorrow, if we do our part, Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro will pull the greatest turnaround in American history," said Cranston. Hart, Mondale's most persistent foe in the Democratic presidential primaries, added enthusiastically, "This time, this time, this time we're going to win."
In his speech, Mondale abandoned the cheerleading style and folksy rhetoric and instead hammered away at Reagan.
"Do you really want to give them a mandate to turn their back on the suffering in America . . . to go soft on toxic polluters . . . to tell women and minorities that the march toward justice is over?" Mondale said. The crowd emphatically shouted "No" as he raised each point.
"Do you really want to give them a mandate to send American combat troops to the jungles of Central America . . . to extend the arms race into the heavens?"
Mondale also made a strong appeal for support of his candidacy because of his running mate, Geraldine A. Ferraro, the first woman ever on a major party's national ticket.
"Just look at the choice -- Gerry Ferraro or George Bush," Mondale said. "It's a choice between someone who's grown in every day in this campaign and someone who's shrunk every day in this campaign. It's a choice between a leader for her administration and a cheerleader for his."
Mondale recalled how "women wept openly" at the Democratic National Convention when Ferraro was nominated and said that at Ferraro's rallies "parents have held their daughters up to get a glimpse of history."
"I'm proud of it, I'm proud of her and I'm proud of opening that door for our country," Mondale said of his choosing Ferraro.
Mondale also used the speech for a final recitation of the Democratic Party's concerns, calling for stronger environmental protection measures, "a renaissance of education, science and learning," a tax system that is tougher on the upper class and a strong stand on human rights abroad.
Earlier today, he passed up requests for broadcast interviews, largely, aides said, to avoid having to discuss polls showing him far behind -- polls that the Mondale campaign has insisted must be wrong. Instead, he spent most of the morning calling around the country, urging campaign lieutenants to push hard for high voter turnout.