Why should I vote for you?

What we want to know now, Mr.Presidential Candidate, is why a citizen should vote form you rather than againstm your opponents. Many a past candidate may have been nudged into office by the modified rapture of voters who couldn't bear to consider the alternative. But this is ridiculous -- "the lesser of two evils" as the characteristic of a chosen candidate cited "by far the most frequently" among Democratic votes polled during the three biggest final primaries this week.

What does this say for Senator Kennedy, who won in two of them, California and New JErsey? Or for President Carter, who won in Ohio and went over the top, as expected in delegates needed for nomination?

One thing it may say is Reagan, Reagan Reagan. Or, just possibly, at lower volume, Anderson, Anderson.

But in our own campaign to have the candidates judged as potential presidents rather than handicapped as racehorses, we suggest that the reason to vote form anybody should not be the calculation of who might or might not win. It should be the reasons to vote for a candidate conveyed by him in word and deed, not any rhetoric against others.

In this respect we have been disappointed by candidate Kennedy, who began by laying out a program of his own, right or wrong, but who seems to have lapsed into generalized attack on candidate Carter. His resilience and endurance have been in the admired American tradition of stick-to-it-iveness. and he promotes a valuable confidence in the ability of Americans and their institutions to overcome their troubles. But the method of his attack is such as to belabor Carter by dwelling on the hardships of the people, almost fostering their fears as he promises to lead them to a better life. Kennedy will more effectively make that contribution to the democratic process -- and the Democratic Party -- which he says he pursues, if he gets back to spelling out just how he would improve on the incumbent.

Candidate Reagan, too, having sealed his overwhelming delegate count, should be expected to offer some more reasons to vote for Carter, as he has done so amusingly recently. To be accurate, as indicated at the 1976 convention and since, people who are for Reagan do seem to be more for him than simply against the alternatives. This may not be so true of liberal or moderate Republicans who seize on him as a winner rather than a soulmate. But Reagan is proceeding witha good humor that sheds barbs. What the undecided need to know are such things as the definitive word on what he intends among the various versions of his economic policy.

Candidate Carter, meanwhile, may have all the advantages of incumbency, which he has been exploiting to the full. But, now that he is out on the campaign trail, he needs to do more than dismiss Kennedy as an honorable stray lamb who will be welcomed back and Anderson as a figure of fantasy not to be taken seriously. He could let voters know what he considers bad as well as good about his presidential record. He could lay out the lines for improvement or consolidation. Thus, he might provide reasons for the Democratic convention to go for him with some enthusiasm, whatever the delegate politicking, and then for citizens in the fall to vote for him rather than simply against the alternative.

Not to forget that low-volume Anderson, Anderson, we hope the preoccupation with ballot mechanics has only temporarily kept him from the valuable concentration on issues which characterized his early campaign. And we trust that, now that he is in the hands of high-powered campaign packagers, they will disclose the product that is actually there rather than alter it for media purposes.

We're listening for all the candidates to respond.

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