Carter campaign can't shake off dogged Anderson
Washington — Democratic Party leaders report from all geographical regions that President Carter's Anderson problem" is not ebbing as it was expected to by this time in the campaign.
The recent television debate with Ronald Reagan appears to have stabilized support for John Anderson. That backing had begun to show some slippage as many Kennedy Democrats had moved back into tepid and tentative support of Jimmy Carter.
In the face of this, the President's political advisers are definitely worried about Anderson who, at least now, appears to be taking more votes away from Carter than Reagan.
But after new consultations on "what to do about Anderson," the Carter campaign tactics remain the same: to concentrate all guns on Reagan and say very little about Anderson.
"We can't target-in Anderson," one key Carter political hand says, "without building him up. All we can do is continue to hope that as the election nears more and more voters will leave Anderson, deciding not to waste their votes."
Monitor conversations with key Democrats across the United States brought forth these views:
* Carter charges against Reagan -- hinting his opponent is a racist and a warmonger -- may well be backfiring, to the advantage of both Reagan and Anderson.
These leaders told the Monitor that many liberals in their areas were saying that what they called a "mean streak" in the President might well cause them to change their minds again and go back to independent candidate Anderson.
* By and large it seemed that many Democratic voters were pleased with Anderson's debating performance, enough so to convince them that he was presidential in ability and therefore worth voting for.
The finding by at least one poll, the Harris survey, that its respondents felt Anderson got the debating edge over Reagan supports this view.
And the prevailing opinion among the Democratic leaders contacted by the Monitor is that Carter, by absenting himself, was the clear -- though perhaps not big -- loser.
* Party leaders who only two weeks back were predicting a Carter surge that would soon leave Reagan well behind were changing their tune. They were much more cautious, seeing a race that now would be very close and could go either way.
"When Reagan made all those gaffes," one Midwestern politician said, "I thought he was on his way down and out. But he's halted his slide -- partly because he's being much more careful about what he's saying."
* These Democratic leaders were viewing the Iraq-Iran conflict as an event that could very well shift the election in either direction.
At this point the opinions on this subject are split. Some of these politicians thought Carter might well show leadership qualities in dealing with this international crisis that would bring about widespread public support and help re-elect him.
Some saw the possiblity that the President might appear to be dealing with the event in a way that was aimed at helping his campaign -- and that such a perception might turn many voters against him.