Washington — While outwardly President Carter and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy still are waging political war, they are working privately to find an accommodation. The Monitor has learned that in recent days Robert Strauss, Mr. Carter's campaign chairman, has talked with Paul Kirk, Senator Kennedy's national political director, to explore ways of coming up with a party platform that would satisfy both sides.
"They haven't got into anything really substantive yet," a source says, "but this is a beginning."
When asked about the get-together, Mr. Kirk said the conversation with Mr. Strauss was "over the phone" and that the subject matter was confined to trying to work out an agreement on how many Carter people and how many Kennedy people would sit on the subcommittee that would draw up the draft of the party platform.
Thus, while Senator Kennedy seems in his campaign oratory to be intent on carrying his fight to the convention floor, signs point to a coming together of the President and his challenger.
"Oh, there'll be a battle at the convention," one key Carter Democrat says, "but I think we may be able to avoid the bloodshed that would severely damage the President in his race against Reagan. A week ago I wouldn't be so certain of this. But now I see the possibility that divisiveness may be avoided."
Also it was learned that the President will be calling Senator Kennedy "fairly soon" to see if in a private phone discussion he can get the Senator to accept the olive branch he offered a few days ago.
"This definitely will be coming," this informant said. "But I can't say when. Perhaps it will come now -- after Carter's big Oregon win and with the prospect that he may be able to go over the top on delegates in the May 27 primaries in Kentucky. Nevada, Idaho, and Arkansas."
There is other evidence of peacemaking in the race for the nomination.
House Speaker Thomas P. O'Neill Jr. now has called for unity among Democrats.
He has not asked Mr. Kennedy to drop out of the race. But his implication is clear: that further political sniping at PResident Carter from the senator does nothing to improve the prospects for the Democrats in november.
Further, there are a number of Democratic members of Congress (some, privately, more inclined to support Mr. Kennedy than Mr. Carter) who are letting the senator know that he should make a graceful departure from the race.
They are telling him his continuance in the contest may bring about a party division that will greatly weaken the re-election efforts of Democratic officeholders, including those in Congress.
Also, there are a number of governors and mayors around the United States who make the same point with Mr. Kennedy: He cannot go too far with his war on President Carter without taking a lot of Democrats down the drain in the November election.
Outwardly, the Carter-Kennedy war goes on.
There is continued evidence that a number of those in the Kennedy camp will remain "to the bitter end." They intend to insist that the senator take Mr. Carter to the mat at the convention.
The question is this:
Will the Democratic politicians who are worried about re-election prevail? Or will those who have given their all for Senator Kennedy along the campaign trail win out in the end?
One savvy observer here sees it this way: "Kennedy isn't going to push this so far that he divides the party. He'd like a strong unified party to support him if he decided to run in 1984 -- and I think he now is looking toward 1984."