Washington — The "Kennedy speech," as the senator's Jan. 28 address at Georgetown University is being referred to, has accomplished his first objective: It has changed the subject.
The media and the voters have taken their eyes off the Iowa presidential caucus results and are focusing on the Senator Kennedy's attack on President Carter.
This judgment comes from top Carter people, as well as from the Kennedy camp. "No doubt about it," one key Carter political strategist told the Monitor," Kennedy was able to do what he had to do -- get the spotlight off of his Iowa defeat."
Beyond this clear Kennedy gain, the "Speech" and his follow-up TV address in New England, in which he added comments on Chappaquiddick, appear to have workers in Maine and New Hampshire -- where morale had been low and, hence, where the vote-getting effort had been flagging.
But reporters conversing with politicians in both Maine and New Hampshire have yet to find any clear-cut upward surge in Senator Kennedy's fortunes.
"Things are just about as they were before Kennedy spoke out," one high-level New Hampshire Democrat who has maintained a neutral stance said Jan. 29. "People who liked Kennedy are still going to back him, and those who had made up their mind to go for Carter still will support him."
The expert observers making these assessments usually add this reservation: The new Kennedy initiative could have more long-run impact than now appears.
In Washington, some observers are saying that the senator opened up a very legitimate and important debate on what US relations with the Soviet Union now should be.
They say it is the moment for the public to hear both "doves" and "hawks" debate the President's new, tougher stance in dealing with Soviet aggression.
They say such questions as these must be discussed:
*Are we unduly antagonizing the soviets, as Mr. Kennedy suggested?
* Do we possess the military might to back up the tough Carter position, as Republicans are asking?
* Are we edging toward a confrontation which could include the use of nuclear weapons, as those of varying philosophical stripes are asking?
However, some observers say that in attacking the President's foreign policy Senator Kennedy has seriously eroded national unity in this time of crisis. They, thus, questions the ligitimacy of what some of them are calling "Kennedy's desperation politics" being brought to bear on foreign policy at this time.
Also, in political circles here, this view of Senator Kennedy's latest moves is often heard: That he now is looking more at the future than he is at trying to win the nomination; that he wants to project himself as the leader of the liberal community -- and be in a position to carry that leadership into debates in the Senate and, also, if a "liberal" or "dove" cause is a burning one in 1984 , to be the logical candidate to carry the torch for that cause.