New York — Keep your eye on the presidential candidate who wins the "Big Apple." The victor here in New York City likely will carry the state. And the results in New York State could well determine the outcome of the entire presidential election.
President Carter's campaign strategists concede that he must win in this state if he is to be re-elected.
Yet at this point, liberal members of the Jewish community here are not drifting back from independent candidate John B. Anderson to Carter in sufficient quantity to assure the President what is vital to him: a big enough chunk of the Jewish vote that a Democratic candidate must have to win this state's 41 electoral votes.
What is even more significant in terms of Carter's problems here is that many liberal Jewish voters who are leaving Mr. Anderson's camp say that they may vote for Ronald Reagan.
Conversations with politicians and rank- and-file members of the Jewish community reveal that in the last few days, liberal Jews have finally given up on Anderson. They feel that he cannot win. But they are not flocking to Carter yet in the quantity he needs.
Their reasoning goes something like this: Carter has been a complete failure as president. We couldn't possibly vote for him. Reagan just might be better, although we don't hold out too much hope. Anyway, he's very strong for Israel. And that is very important to us.
This development is completely unexpected.In the Reagan camp, it naturally is welcome. The governor's campaign has courted the Jewish community, but with the limited hope that it might encourage Jewish voters simply not to vote for the President. This sizable increase in Jewish support for Reagan is a surprise bonus for him.
This Jews-for-Reagan shift is being perceived in other Jewish communities across the United States. In the most heavily Jewish populated area of Philadelphia, for example, a new poll shows Jews picking Reagan as their first choice. Anderson was second. And Carter runs third.
Similar moves toward Reagan are being noted among Jews in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami, as well as in other cities with sizable Jewish populations.
This does not necessarily mean that Reagan is likely to "win" the Jewish vote. But it appears that Reagan is about to cut very deeply into the big Jewish majorities that normally vote for Democratic presidential candidates. And this could be decisive in some state elections -- in addition to New York.
A young Jewish lawyer here who has talked with other members of the Jewish community about their voting plans says, "Yes, I'm a liberal Democrat and supported Kennedy and then Anderson, as did my friends until just a couple of days ago. But now we may vote for Reagan."
Why Reagan and not Carter?
"It's just that Carter has been a complete flop as president -- in foreign affairs, on domestic matters. He's just been a terrible president. Reagan would have to be better. So we're thinking about voting for him," he says.
So at this point, Reagan's campaign seems to be picking up support in two important areas from Anderson's decline: in the suburbs, where many independents and moderate Republicans are leaving Anderson for Reagan -- more so than those moving to Carter; and in the big cities, where these liberals who backed Kennedy (many of whom are Jewish) are simply unable to support Carter and say that either they will not vote for president or they are going to vote for Reagan.