Supporters feed meter to keep Kennedy campaign running
Washington — Despite his Iowa loss and his drop in the polls, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy has collected $250,000 in a single week. This indicates, his supporters say, that he still has firepower left to stay in the race against President Carter.
"Money is coming in steadily, fast enough to keep going," says Morris Dees, Kennedy fund-raiser. In the week following the Iowa primary, the campaign raised and deposited this $250,000. This was half the $500,000 Iowa Republican winner George Bush reports socking away since then, but it still was a hefty sum , much of it from liberal givers who had been holding back last fall.
Wednesday night 400 givers -- twice as many as expected -- paid $520 each to attend a Kennedy fund-raiser in Washington.
Since Senator Kennedy's go-after-Carter speech at Georgetown University Monday, many young volunteers have been showing up in key places like Florida to work for his candidacy.
Interest on the hustings "has become enormously intensified," reports historian James McGregor Burns, who has been campaigning for Senator Kennedy this week in New England. "The turnouts are larger than I'd seen in Iowa," he says. "Audiences in the past said they saw little difference between him and Carter. Before, the questions were: Does he really want the presidency? And, does he offer an alternative? [After the Georgetown speech] he is more convincing in the sense of his commitment to finishing the race.He is also more controversial. He has projected issues -- the draft, wage-price controls -- into the campaign."
And Kennedy pollster Peter D. Hart discounts national poll readings, such as the just- released Louis Harris survey showing Carter with 60 percent; Kennedy, 28 percent; California Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr., 5 percent of the Democratic vote.
"What you're going to see in the end is 'the great contortion' as these people -- pollsters and media -- have to explain why they were wrong," he says.
"We have not had a single ballot cast or a single delegate chosen. When Bush goes from 6 percent to 27 percent nationally in one day, you really have to say the process hasn't gone forward nationally. I don't think Jimmy Carter has 60 percent of the vote from the American public, as a real vote. If we do a good job in New Hampshire, everybody is going to be talking about the dogfight between Kennedy and Carter."
Nonetheless, the road just ahead for Mr. Kennedy is rough, admits Rick Stearns, chief delegate campaign strategist for the Massachusetts senator. "To reach mid-April we have to raise $1.5 million," Mr. Stearns says. "This looks reachable right now, with the money coming in Campaign esprit is better than at any point the last two months. But right now we have everybody working for free , and you can't keep that going for long.
"Politically, Kennedy could lose the early primaries, except Massachusetts, then start winning in New York [March 25] and still win in the end," Mr. Stearns says. "But whether you can get the finances if you lose all that early is another matter." After New York, 60 percent of Democratic nomination delegates will remain to be chosen.
"Maine looks all right for us, organizationally, just as Iowa did," Mr. Stearns says of the next nomination test, Feb. 10. "What we hadn't counted on was another 40,000 turning out in Iowa. Maine is not the same state as Iowa. People in Maine live closer to the margin, they're more sensitive to Kennedy-type issues."
Because Senator Kennedy is accepting federal matching funds, he cannot use more than $50,000 of his own private wealth for his campaign. Hence his people are resoliciting some 16,000 donors who have already given to his campaign.
"The donors are responding at an unusually high rate," says Roger Craver, president of Craver, Mathews, Smith & Co., a firm which handles direct mail fund-raising for many progressive liberal groups like Common Cause as well as the Kennedy campaign. "The average gift is in the $40 range, triple the usual contribution," he says.
Actually, financial support for Mr. Kennedy began to pick up in early January , Mr. Craver says, as international events intensified.
"The progressive constituency, particularly the peace constituency, is starting to rally to Kennedy," Mr. Craver says. "There's a deep fear of war in this country. Kennedy is the one person the peace constituency can rally around.
"This trend is just starting. If the debate gets going on the draft, Cuba, Iran, Afghanistan, you will see growing concern with Carter, with defense commitments. The other side of the aisle [liberals] will get out their wallets.
"The greatest giving the country has seen occurred when McGovern got 600,000 donors during the Vietnam period.
"These givers are not pacifists. They are thinking people who realize it isn't enough to rally around the President. They are people who want a national debate before defense preparedness goes ahead."