'Reluctant' liberals -- Carter needs them to rally to his cause to win
Washington — The liberals in 1980 are reminiscent of the conservatives of 1964: They seem to be sticking to their ideological guns no matter what that may mean to the outcome of the presidential election.
As perceived by political observers and pollsters at this point, they may well be the group that provides Ronald Reagan with a win in November.
Just as the Goldwater supporters rode to defeat with their conservative colors held defiantly high, so the liberals -- or a great many of those voters who supported George McGovern in 1972 and recently backed Edward Kennedy -- apparently are willing to let a Democratic candidate sink this year rather than comprmise their principles.
New polls do show some of these liberals moving back to support President Carter. But, as one pollster told the Monitor, "They are holding their noses while they do so."
A large segment of these voters, who normally find their home in the Democratic Party, remain behind independent John B. Anderson even though they see that this is probably a losing cause.
Others are talking about not voting for President, just marking the rest of the ballot.
And a third group are telling pollsters, and reporters, that they might just cast a vote for Reagan -- in defiance of Carter -- just as many backers of Eugen McCarthy ended up by casting a similar kind of protest vote for Richard Nixon in 1968.
Senator Kennedy, after providing only a grudging endorsement of the President at the Democratic convention, has campaigned for Carter -- and he is expected to continue to do so.
But an associate of the Massachusetts senator puts it this way: "Sure, Kennedy is going through the motions for Carter. But anyone who watches him do it can see clearly that he isn't enthusiastic. His very lack of enthusiasm sends out a message to many of his former supporters: that Kennedy still isn't that interested in seeing that Carter is elected."
Another Kennedy message also seems clear: He is using this campaign to help ready himself for another try at the presidency four years hence.
Meanwhile, Ronald Reagan and the Republicans are going out of their way these days not to emulate the Goldwater campaign mistakes.
Actually, what the President and his people now are most unhappy about is that they claim Reagan keeps shifting his positions.
It is the Reagan move toward the middle ground that is, in fact, the most frustrating element in the presidential race from Carter's point of view.
Reagan, while still talking about cutting back on federal spending -- and particularly on government waste -- is providing new assurances almost every day to those who thought such an approach might endanger them: the elderly, the unemployed, and the disadvantaged.
Now, in another move toward the center, Reagan has renounced his former suggestion of last spring that unions be made subject to anti-trust laws.