President Cater has picked up one vote in Chicago -- that of Mayor Jane Byrne -- at least for the moment. The hope among Democratic Party leaders here is that the long-courted mayoral endorsement will deliver Illinois' 26 electoral college votes to Mr. Carter.
The first firm evidence of the Carter- Byrne reconciliation came when Vice- President Walter F. Mondale joined Mayor Byrne at the Democratic state convention in Chicago Tuesday night. This past summer Byrne had fought hard for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy to be the Democratic presidential nominee. But in front of 4,000 of the state party faithful Sept. 9, the mayor said that in the choice between Carter and Ronald Reagan, "There is only one answer."
Then Mayor Byrne joined in the applause as the Vice-President launched into a lively attack on Mr. Reagan -- who was campaigning in Chicago the same day.
Mr. Mondale said of the Republican candidate: "The first day out he lost China, the second day he lost Bush, the third day he won the war in Vietnam, on the fourth day he lost Charles Darwin, on the fifth day he lost the South, and on the fourth of November he is going to lose the state of Illinois."
Mondale had less to say when it came to answering the first barrage of questions from waiting reporters. All wanted to know whether Byrne had been won over to the Carter camp by the more-than-$100- million bouquet of federal aid presented to the city over the past 10 days. Commenting on these funds -- $91.8 million in aid for public transportation, $13.2 million for housing projects, and the transfer of federal land to expand Chicago's O'Hare airport -- Mondale replied: "That aid goes to the city of Chicago, not to any one individual."
Byrne denied that the recent influx of federal aid influenced her decision to support Carter. Earlier, when announcing that the aid was on the way, Byrne said that the new package of grants and loans demonstrates that Carter is "answering the needs of the city."
The mayor's outspoken press secretary and husband, Jay McMullen, explained thay Byrne's switch from Carter critic to Carter campaigner makes sense in view of her pledge made before the Democratic national Convention to support the party candidate. He added that "the President is showing good faith with his pledge to be more responsive to the needs of the city, and the mayor felt that this merits some gestures on her part."
No one here is sure whether Byrne's gestures will extend to appearing on any platforms with Carter. For the present, Carter's only scheduled visit to Illinois is on Sept. 22, when he visits Springfield, the state capital, not Chicago.
Political observers here had predicted Byrne would get what she asked for: that Carter make the first move toward any reconciliation. They pointed out that right now Carter needs the mayor's support more than she needs his -- since her re- election does not come until 1983. So there was little surprise over the $100 million aid package for Chicago.
But despite the apparent patch-up of differences between Byrne and the Carter administration, there remains an element of uncertainly in the depth of her support.
Politicians here consider Byrne a changeable character -- and recall that just prior to endorsing Kennedy last fall, she brought Carter to Chicago as co-host for a fund-raising dinner that netted her $1.4 million.
Byrne also is facing a challenge from the former mayor's son, Democratic state senator Richard M. Daley. He is running for state attorney and is considered a leadind contender for becoming Chicago's mayor in 1983.
Northwestern University political science professor Robert Lineberry adds another caveat. He feels Byrne's endorsement many make little difference Illinois.
In his recent studies comparing leading norhtern industrial cities, he says, "Chicago ranks pretty low in its ability to deliver Democratic votes."
He dismisses the supposed ability of the "Daley machine" to control 50 ward committeemen as a myth, and adds concerning any such machine, "If anyone runs, it, this certainly isn't Jane Byrne."