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Ford votes in his hometown, optimistic about election

By HELEN THOMAS

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., Nov. 2, 1976 (UPI)-An optimistic and nostalgic President Ford voted at Wealthy Elementary School in his hometown today before going back to Washington to await the outcome of his White House battle with Jimmy Carter.

"I feel very good. Nov. 2 is going to be a good day," said Ford after he and his wife, Betty, motorcaded to the school and cast their ballots for the President.

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The President arranged to return to Washington before noon, where he and his family will watch the returns on television tonight.

"Are you feeling lucky?" Ford was asked by reporters as he signed autographs for children in Grand Rapids and jubilantly hoisted aloft one youngster wearing a "Ford" cap and waving an American flag.

"Sure do. I'm feeling optimistic," he said. Obviously referring to nationwide polls which showed him forging into a virtual tie with Democratic Carter in the late going, he added: "Don't you think we have good reason?"

Mrs. Ford said she voted for "my favorite candidate, President Ford."

The President and his wife traveled in a motorcade from the Hotel Pantlind to the Wealthy Elementary School in Grand Rapids, where they arrived at 7:30 a.m. EST. Along the way, Ford stopped the motorcade in front of a service station when he spotted an elderly couple who were "friends of my parents."

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They voted in the auditorium of the school, about three blocks from the house where Mrs. Ford was brought up.

Each signed the registration book and took their paper ballots. The President stood in one polling booth, and Mrs. Ford in another. Each took a few minutes to check off their choices.

Ford seemed not to want to leave the school. While he was marking his ballot, several hundred children outside chanted, "We want Ford."

When he entered to resume his motorcade, Ford paused to shake hands with the children, many of whom wanted his autograph. He hoisted 7-year-old Chris Waring, who was wearing a red, white, and blue baseball cap with Ford's name on it and carrying an American flag, high into the air.

"He's solidly confident," said one of Ford's top aides, as most national polls forecast a photo finish.

Ford was emotionally drained when he arrived in Grand Rapids at the end of a 10-day final campaign journey which took him from coast to coast, covering close to 16,000 miles.

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