Washington — Despite expectations to the contrary, the possibility of a black presidential candidate may have been strengthened by the Chicago mayoral results. The expectation was otherwise. But reports from around the nation indicate that black leaders, in the wake of Mayor-elect Harold Washington's victory, are even more determined to field a black Democrat.
These leaders now see, in the tremendous black voter turnout in Chicago, support for expectations that black candidates everywhere, particularly in the big urban centers, will do better in the future.
And, further, they say blacks' new-found ability to get out their own vote could carry a black presidential candidate quite far.
Before the Chicago election, the word from the black community was that only if Mr. Washington lost would blacks, in frustration and anger, likely put up a Democratic presidential candidate of their own. It would be seen as a message to white Democrats, who voted against Washington on racial grounds, that they could no longer take blacks for granted.
But now the rationale has changed. Harold Washington's success is fueling talk of a black effort at the presidency.
A white Republican political leader - Sen. Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, who heads the GOP Senate campaign committee - sees the Chicago election as likely to trigger a black presidential candidacy. He also, looking down the road a bit, sees the possibility of a black presidential nominee ''before the end of the century.''
''Right now this is more likely to happen in the Democratic Party,'' says Senator Lugar. ''But the fact is, the Republicans might decide to put together an extraordinary ticket: the possibility of a huge swing resulting from nominating a black might be very tempting.''
The senator, over breakfast with reporters and then in a post-breakfast interview, discussed the Chicago election in some depth.
''I think the election is likely to intensify the (effort to nominate) a black presidential candidate,'' said Lugar. ''The black leaders would doubtless be encouraged by the registration and get-out-the-vote effort in Chicago - seeing how this could well apply to a national election.''
The current expectations of black leaders is to have a black candidate, perhaps Jesse Jackson, running well enough in the primaries to give the blacks leverage in selecting the actual candidate and in shaping the platform. They are not talking about winning the nomination. Instead, they are saying they will settle for ''leverage'' at the convention.
Reporters around the breakfast table pressed hard for Lugar's assessment of the Chicago election.
''It may stimulate registration where it has not occurred in get-out-the-vote efforts,'' he said. ''One of the things that we noticed, belatedly, in 1982 and (which is) now confirmed by the Chicago election, is the importance of black voter registration. It is going to make an enormous difference in each election from here on out, whether it is a municipal election or a national one.''
Will the bitterness ebb now in Chicago?
I think so. Whether Chicago will be well governed or not depends on a lot of things - if the mayor can get together with the aldermen and get the machinery going - a machinery which may or may not be in disrepair.
My guess is that despite all the predictions of the machinery crumbling, that this isn't so. As a matter of fact, an urban government requires pretty strong political machinery if services can be rendered. My guess is that people will come together. . . . The time for magnanimity is here.
But the President is having trouble here: What must he do to attract more of the black vote?
At the heart of making any successful appeal will be a strong economic recovery. Blacks vote straight Democratic in many instances because they feel fearful of the future. The economy must get better for there to be a substantial appeal to black voters by the President.
Are you saying if the economy improves the President will be able to pick up a large number of black votes?
I don't know about large - but it will be a better percentage.
Do you see the Chicago race as being a variant - or could this presage a two-party race for Chicago mayor in the future?
No, I don't see a two-party situation coming out of that scenario. These were unusual circumstances obviously.