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How Kennedy views all this

By Godfrey Sperling Jr.Godfrey Sperling Jr. is the Monitor's senior Washington columnist. / March 20, 1984



SEN. Edward M. Kennedy is described by those who know him well as sitting restlessly on the sidelines, dissatisfied with the way the presidential campaign is emerging, but not really interested in injecting himself into the process.

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* Kennedy on Gary Hart. The Massachusetts senator is uncomfortable with the Coloradoan. He thinks Hart is an opportunist who floats on the issues.

Kennedy's view is that Hart was late on lending his support to a nuclear freeze, an issue important to Kennedy. He also questions Hart's commitment to a freeze.

However, don't expect Kennedy to break with Hart. After all, Hart helped Robert Kennedy in his campaign. But like many other congressmen, Kennedy just doesn't feel he knows Hart.

What really bothers Kennedy, his friends say, is Hart's claim to the Kennedy constituency.

Kennedy sees no problem with liberals now becoming enchanted with Hart. But he doesn't like Hart to openly lay a claim to the Kennedy name and tradition - and to the widespread voter support that goes with the Kennedy legacy.

If anyone is to ride the Kennedy colors to victory, Ted feels he should be the one to do it, or perhaps sometime in the future, another Kennedy.

* Kennedy on Walter Mondale. Despite the harshness of Mondale's sniping at him in the 1980 campaign, Kennedy has apparently forgiven the Minnesotan.

However, he hasn't endorsed Fritz. So there may be a residual anti-Mondale feeling, if not with Kennedy, perhaps within the Kennedy camp.

Some Kennedy staffers are said to oppose an endorsement of Mondale lest it work against the possibility of a convention deadlock in which Kennedy could contend for the nomination if he has no ties with either of the deadlocked candidates.

Kennedy basically likes Mondale. That is, they are able to relate to each other and they see each other as fairly close ideologically.

However, Kennedy believes - and he has been telling Mondale - that the Minnesotan's special-interest campaign has been all wrong.

In Kennedy's view Mondale also has been much too cautious and his lack of daring lies behind his problem in being unable to excite voters the way Hart has been able to do.

* Kennedy on Ronald Reagan. Kennedy thinks this isn't a good year for a Democrat to run. He sees Reagan as formidable and, if the economy remains good, as perhaps unbeatable.

* Kennedy on Kennedy. The senator is described as being philosophical about his own future. He is not unhappy with the idea of remaining on in the Senate - and having this as his final governmental role.

But he does want to keep his options open for another try at the presidency, perhaps in 1988. He found the loss to Carter in 1980 a little chilling. He knows he irritated a number of party leaders who had already endorsed Carter when Kennedy jumped into the primaries. But he thinks he could still launch an effective bid for the nomination and then for the presidency.

Some observers say that Kennedy would just as soon no Democrat won this year, thus leaving 1988 open to a Kennedy candidacy that would not have to, once again , challenge a Democratic incumbent. Such a theory is probably unfair - not doing justice to the Kennedy loyalty to the Democratic Party. But the thought seems to have occurred to some of Kennedy's staff.

Within that staff there is understood to be growing sentiment for Kennedy to be ready to leap into the race and break a deadlock, if it occurs.

But it is also understood that Kennedy is not at all interested in such a development. He's still young enough to wait another four years. And if he gets his druthers (and he just might be drafted this year) it will be 1988, not 1984.