Washington — Alan Cranston, fresh from delivering Democratic front-runner Walter F. Mondale a surprise blow in the Wisconsin presidential straw poll, was showing reporters some of his quick political footwork.
Claiming the nuclear-freeze issue, on which he had won in Wisconsin, as his own, the California senator at the same time was asserting that this was not a liberal issue, but a broad one for which he already was finding wide support in the business community.
Reporters' questions zeroed in on this issue:
But haven't you aligned yourself with an issue that certainly got Labor Party leader Michael Foot nowhere in the British election?
The comparisons are not all particularly accurate. He is for a unilateral freeze. I am for a bilateral negotiation with no significant American cutback unless there is an agreement with the Soviet Union that it cut back as well, under verifiable agreements.
But how does this position differ with that expressed by Mondale?
I think it is primarily a matter of intensity. It's also a matter of history. I've been involved with the issue since 1945 when bombs fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I met Einstein shortly after that. I attended several meetings with him and talked with him at length.
He convinced me that we faced an unprecedented peril, that nuclear war could destroy the environment that sustains life on this planet - and would obviously destroy this and any other country involved in nuclear war.
I've been involved in the issue ever since. My background on this issue goes back further than anyone else within reach of the presidency. And out of that background I have a very deep commitment to seeking to lead the country to cope with the nuclear threat. I've played an active part in the Senate ever since I've been there on this issue.
But while you have done well in Wisconsin on this issue, do you really think it will play well in the rest of the country, other, than, say, in Massachusetts?
Before deciding to run for President, I spent all of 1982 exploring whether I could run on this issue in all parts of the country. And I concluded I could. I tested it in several Southern and border states.
Would you tell us what states?
I specifically tested the issue in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Alabama, North Carolina, and Louisiana. And everywhere I went, and not just before liberal Democratic audiences, but before all people - in meetings with bankers, with business leaders, with blacks, with people interested in women's issues - I found a deep apprehension over the arms race, on two grounds: (1) the danger of nuclear war; and (2) what the arms race is doing to the economy.
I admit that this Wisconsin straw poll did not represent a cross section of public opinion. But the ones involved are the Democratic leaders and activists - the kind of people who will play an important role in the caucus states and at the convention - in selecting the presidential nominee.
While continuing to stress his nuclear-freeze issue, Cranston made it clear that he was not a ''one-issue'' candidate. He underscores the need for a jobs program and help for education.
Nearly 40 reporters were on hand for the breakfast. A much smaller group attended the senator's last visit. The reason? The senator said, simply, ''I'm a contender now.''