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Clinton finally visits Nebraska, but may not get a warm welcome

KEARNEY, Nebraska (Reuters) -- President Clinton may get less than a warm welcome when he arrives in Nebraska today on his first presidential visit to the conservative Midwestern state.

The White House announced last week that he would travel to Nebraska -- the only state Clinton hasn't visited during his almost eight years as president. The lack of a presidential visit has been a source of pride among Republicans in the Cornhusker State.

"Nebraska is proud to have Clinton-free air, Clinton-free water, Clinton-free land and Clinton-free morals," state Republican Party Chairman Chuck Sigerson said. "We lose that the minute he sets foot in Nebraska."

Sigerson added, "Although we don't think highly of Bill Clinton the man, we do understand the office of the president is entitled to some amount of dignity."

Nebraska Republicans have delivered the state for their party's presidential nominee in every election for more than 50 years, with the exception of 1964, when Lyndon Johnson won.

Bob Dole earned one of his largest state margins of victory in Nebraska in 1996. In last month's presidential race, 63 percent of the state's voters cast ballots for Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

News of Clinton's upcoming trip prompted some callers to local radio stations to say they would wear black as a sign of mourning on the day of the visit.

Online comments included "Please stay home Slick," "Sex offender notification alert!" and "We don't want you on R soil."

The opposition to Clinton's visit has been so loud that Republican Gov. Mike Johanns has called on the public to set aside partisanship and extend the president a welcome.

Nebraska Democratic Party spokeswoman Devorah Lanner called the responses to Clinton's planned trip mean-spirited, but said they would likely not spoil the visit.

"When the president comes, he will be welcomed," said Lanner, who described Democrats as thrilled at the visit. "And while Republicans are the majority in the state, there are over 400,000 Democrats here too."

Clinton is scheduled to speak at a special convocation at the University of Nebraska in Kearney, and make a whirlwind tour of such sites as the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument, a new tourist attraction commemorating early pioneers that stretches over Interstate 80.

Copyright 2000 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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Friday, December 8, 2000


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