There's reconciliation and rejuvenation in air for feuding Democrats
New York — Reconciliation now is in the air at the Democratic National Convention. At least, there appears to be definite movement in that direction. Monitor conversations with key Democrats -- here at the convention, in Washington, and elsewhere around the United States -- indicate a resurgence of support for Jimmy Carter just when his standing in the polls had hit a new low.
Much of this upward surge, which new polls also were finding, resulted from the President's Aug. 4 TV defense of the Billy Carter affair. His showing there appeared to translate into a display of competence in the eyes of viewers, both Democrats and the public at large.
Meanwhile, there was growing evidence that Sen. Edward M. Kennedy was inching toward an eventual reconciliation with the Carter forces.
The senator said that no matter how the long-anticipated rules fight on the floor of the convention Aug. 11 turned out, it would not stand in the way of his coming behind the President.
However, Kennedy also was saying flatly that Carter would have to adopt and give "substantive, not just cosmetic" support to the Kennedy jobs plank in the Democratic Party platform if a final coming together of the two men was to take place.
At the same time, the President was making it clear that under no circumstances would he back Kennedy's "big-spending jobs program," according to Carter campaign manager Robert Strauss, who says he speaks for the President. So the ingredients seemed to be in place for a king-sized falling out between these antagonists.
But Democratic national chairman John White said Aug. 11 he was certain there now had been sufficient concessions by the President on the economic plank to satisfy Kennedy.
Mr. White did not rule out the possibility of a stiff convention fight, but he said, "This thing is definitely coming together."
White also said he was convinced that Kennedy would work hard for Carter in the fall campaign.
Kennedy met with some of his close associates Aug. 11 and, for the first time , was willing to discuss a scenario in which Carter, not he, would be the presidential nominee.
"He looks as though he is getting himself in a frame of mind so that he can make that long trip back to reconciliation," one Kennedy associate said.
Meanwhile, the very mood of this convention seemed to be turning toward peace and away from dissension and ugliness.
A Monitor reporter has talked to a number of pro-Kennedy delegates who were beginning to say, at least tentatively, that they would be willing to line up behind the President.
While no walkout of Kennedy delegates was ever envisioned, there had been the prospect of Kennedy people going out of here determined either to sit on their hands this fall, or support John Anderson.
But the mood now seems aimed in another direction. The delegates appeared to be turning away from the heavy involvement in the intramural Kennedy-Carter fight and focusing their attention on trying to beat the Republicans.
Conversations with delegates disclose a growing confidence that the President can win in the fall.
Some of this new hope here relates to new polls (and word about some other polls that are supposed to carrying the same message) that indicate Carter is already cutting deeply into Ronald Reagan's big lead. "We were about 31 percentage points behind," White told reporters over breakfast Aug. 10, "and now I'm seeing polls which show that lead has been cut to 20 points.
"I'm certain that by the end of this convention there will be only 10 percentage points separating the two candidates -- and by the time of the first debate we will be drawing very close to Reagan."
So it is that almost before the convention here begins there are signs that a storm has died down to little more than a squall. Perhaps the wind of dissension will begin to blow again here -- but political leaders and veteran observers are no longer predicting it.