Sioux Falls, S.D. — Walter Mondale may not receive very neighborly treatment when South Dakota Democrats vote Tuesday as part of the last round of presidential primaries. The former vice-president, an early favorite here, is a native of Minnesota, South Dakota's eastern neighbor. But party officials and others say Colorado Sen. Gary Hart has now emerged as the favorite.
Fifteen of South Dakota's 19 Democratic convention delegates will be apportioned based on the primary.
Until Thursday, Mr. Mondale's campaign was the least visible of the four candidates who will be on South Dakota's ballot. In addition to Mr. Hart and Mr. Mondale, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Democratic maverick Lyndon LaRouche will be listed. Hart and Mr. LaRouche are the only candidates who have personally campaigned in the state.
Being from Minnesota may help Mondale, because two-thirds of South Dakota's population live in the eastern third of the state. But that affinity probably won't be enough to overcome memories of a grain embargo imposed when Mondale was vice-president, the jilted feeling voters have about Mondale for ignoring their state in the campaign, and Hart's superior local organization.
Alan Clem, a political science professor at the University of South Dakota, says South Dakota Democrats lean more toward Western Democrats than products of urban political machines in the Midwest.
''Hart is seen as a fresher, more independent voice and less tied to organized labor and the Eastern liberal establishment,'' he says.
Hart's ties in South Dakota rest primarily in friendships from 1972, when he worked as George McGovern's campaign manager. That was the year the former South Dakota senator won the Democratic presidential nomination but lost the general election.
Hart has made two short stops in South Dakota, including a May 23 tour of the Sioux Falls stockyards. Mondale's aides responded Thursday by dispatching supporter Hubert Humphrey III to the state. Mr. Humphrey is Minnesota's attorney general and the son of the former Minnesota senator and vice-president.
Jackson backers are working the state with a small corps of volunteers. Much of Mr. Jackson's effort has been focused on generating support by American Indians, who make up 6.5 percent of South Dakota's population. Jackson supporters have set a goal to win three delegates, but they might be fortunate to win one.
South Dakota is a rural, agricultural state with a split personality. The Missouri River, which runs roughly through the center of the state from north to south, is an unofficial dividing line between the Midwest and the West. Farmers and residents of small towns in the eastern half consider themselves Midwesterners. West River ranchers and residents of tourist towns in the Black Hills consider themselves Westerners.
Sioux Falls, population 88,000, is the largest city in the state. It is the only population center where organized labor could be a significant factor in the primary and might help Mondale carry the city. But Loren Carlson, another USD political science professor, says, ''I think the Hart people will tear him up in the rural areas where they still remember the grain embargo.''
Any Democrat will have trouble in the general election, however. Despite a close split in voter registration, South Dakota predominantly votes Republican.