Now the Kennedy camp here in Iowa hopes that an all-out organizational effort will salvage what it calls a "respectable showing" in next Monday's (Jan. 21) caucusing.
The objective: Something short of victory, but enough, as one key Kennedy worker puts it, "so we won't be wiped out."
Yet a top national campaign figure for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy has confided that "we must win in Iowa -- nothing less than victory will be enough."
This Kennedy campaign leader says privately that, realistically, a victory by the Massachusetts Senator is not likely, and that no matter what the Carter victory edge will be, it will push the President significantly forward and do great damage to Senator Kennedy.
A Carter campaign leader sees the possibility of the 2-to-1 Carter poll advantage over Senator Kennedy in Iowa being translated into an "over 50 percent" caucus victory for the President.
"But," he says, "you hear that Kennedy has campaign workers in most of the Iowa precincts. Now, each worker should be able to turn out 10 Iowans to caucus. Well, that might be translated into a pretty good Kennedy showing -- not beating us but cutting down on what we win by to under 50 percent.
"Should that happen the Kennedy people will say they did well. But it won't play. Kennedy himself has called this his first big test in this campaign and at that time he was talking about winning, not getting close. The game hasn't changed just because Carter is ahead in the polls now and not Kennedy."
In an interview with the Monitor, Secretary of Agriculture Bob Bergland seemed certain that the President's cutoff of grain to the Soviets was not hurting the Carter campaign in Iowa.
"I talked to a large number of groups of Iowa farmers last week," he said. "Some 3,000 farmers in all. At the beginning of the week many were apprehensive , but by the end of the week, with the corn prices stabilizing, they seem satisfied that Carter made the right decision."
Mr. Bergland (who supports the President) says Kennedy's best chance of doing well was if the weather turns bad. It now is unseasonably warm here -- up to near 50 degrees F. on Monday and Tuesday (Jan. 14 and 15).
"We're strongest in the rural areas where bad roads could cut back substantially on our caucus turnout," he says. "It's easier to get people out to caucus in the city when the weather turns ugly -- and that's where Kennedy's strength is concentrated."
Meanwhile, the President's Iowa organization, which numbers upward of 30 according to at least one Carter count (Kennedy people say it numbers 100), has been beefed up for the stretch drive by White House staff.
"The President's staff members are pouring into Iowa," one Kennedy worker contends. That may be an exaggeration. But at least a dozen White House and other administration assistants now have left their Washington desks and are involved in pursuading Iowans to caucus in the President's behalf.
Mr. Carter, himself, continues to dominate the Iowa political scene without leaving Washington.