San Francisco — A Santa Monica man, who's donating $20 to the Democratic State Assembly reelection campaign of former 1960s peace activist Tom Hayden, said he also will vote for President Reagan in November. The irony didn't escape Stella Epstein, who overheard the man in the campaign offices where she works for Democratic candidates on the local level.
A renter, the man said he likes the stringent rent controls in Santa Monica secured by Assemblyman Hayden and his allies. But he also said he is more fond of Mr. Reagan's economic policies than Democrat Walter Mondale's.
The polls suggest that this says more about the average American voter than it does about the idiosyncrasies of Californians, says Mrs. Epstein, a Gary Hart delegate to the Democratic National Convention who is now campaigning for Democratic candidates from the city council level all the way up to the top of the ticket.
One of a half-dozen California delegates to the convention being tracked by the Monitor, Epstein reflects a general feeling that the Mondale-Ferraro ticket is lagging far behind the early expectations of delegates. But the group has suffered no attrition in its ranks. Instead, seeing the gap in the polls - giving Reagan a 16-point lead over Mr. Mondale in this state - even the Gary Hart and Jesse Jackson delegates are showing some devotion to the ticket.
While admitting their candidate is behind, nearly all of the six delegates being tracked invoke the memory of Harry Truman's famous upset over Thomas E. Dewey in 1948. They say they are suspicious of the polling that places Mondale behind, and they say they think he will pull closer to Reagan before November.
The campaign has drawn Barbara Lubin back to the Democratic fold. A white Jesse Jackson delegate from Berkeley, she said in August that she was so embittered over his treatment by the Democratic Party that she couldn't support the party this November. But Ms. Lubin is back walking the precincts for progressive local candidates, including Rep. Ron Dellums. She says she is also campaigning for Mondale, even though she thinks he'll lose. She adds that she's campaigning to unseat Reagan rather than to elect Mondale.
A Berkeley School Board member and mother, she says, ''I'm so personally affected. I just approved a (school) budget cutting back on after-school programs for my retarded son, and it has little raises for teachers.'' She blames this on Reagan cutbacks.
Ms. Lubin's new, though tarnished, support for Mondale is characteristic of a resurgence of campaign interest after a lull between the convention and Labor Day. During that period, California Democrats had to listen to the daily recitation of Reagan's lead in the polls, Ms. Ferraro's financial problems, and reports that Mondale would concede Reagan's home state.
''There was the frustration of being on a natural high after the convention, and things didn't get started,'' admits Bob Morales, a young Mondale delegate who lives in Montebello. He left his post as an aide to state Sen. Art Torres to become Mondale's deputy campaign manager in California. He said he had ''a hundred'' callers wanting to campaign right after the convention, but no campaign plans to hook them up with. In August, Mr. Torres was one of those who believed Mondale wouldn't target California. Today he reports that the campaign resources being plowed into the state are heavy and that the campaign here is just gaining steam.
Mondale's Labor Day visit to Long Beach sparked a surge of interest from people not previously politically involved, reports Shirley Guy, a Mondale delegate to the convention and executive director of the Teachers Association of Long Beach.
Ms. Guy disputes polls that show Mondale behind Reagan. ''They poll a thousand people,'' she says, adding that she knows that the 1,800 teachers she represents are largely Mondale supporters. She notes that Ferraro has been a big appeal for the Democratic ticket.
''I'm out there in the trenches, and I don't see it (the point spread between Reagan and Mondale),'' says Inola Henry, a Hart delegate turned Mondale supporter, who has helped register 2,500 new voters. While admitting that Mondale prospects have looked bad, she adds, ''The law of averages has got to wear thin with this Reagan 'teflon factor,' '' refering to Reagan's apparent ability to avoid political damage. She anticipates Sunday's debate to be a turning point for Mondale.
Oscar Thompson, a Jesse Jackson delegate from Carson, says he wonders if his largely black congressional district is being taken for granted by the Democrats. From this retired auto worker's perspective, he's a party outsider right now, because the Mondale campaign has not contacted him. ''We want to be wanted and not always have to go to them,'' he concludes.