That master Southern political strategist, Hamilton Jordan, says the next Democratic presidential candidate must have an effective Southern strategy because he'll need the South to win.
The man who guided Jimmy Carter's winning presidential campaign says Democratic candidates will have to campaign heavily in the South - and show compassion and an understanding for the issues about which Southerners feel deeply. Mr. Jordan added in a recent Washington Post article, ''If none of the Southern candidates wins the nomination, you'll (the Democratic Party) need a Southern running mate for sure.''
But another master politician by the name of Ernest F. Hollings (who spent 14 years as governor of South Carolina and has been elected to the US Senate four times and is now a presidential candidate) would take issue with Jordan.
''Fritz'' Hollings doesn't argue over the importance of the South in the shaping of a 1984 Democratic victory. But he says putting him or another Southerner in the vice-presidential slot is likely to hurt, not help, the ticket. Furthermore, he's less than enchanted with the assumption that that's where a Southerner is likely to end up.
But Jordan notes that since the Reconstruction the only way a Democrat has been elected president has been by carrying some combination of Northeastern, Midwestern, and Southern states; thus, the need for a Southern strategy. He also emphasizes that current trends and voting behavior strongly suggest that the South is likely to vote Republican in the next national election.
Hollings talked to a group of reporters over breakfast recently about the concept of having a Southerner on the ticket: ''Take the working press,'' he said. ''Their first question to me always is, 'Are you running for vice-president?' ''
''Now they don't ask this if you are George McGovern, coming from South Dakota. And they don't ask (Edmund) Muskie, coming from the little state of Maine, if he is running for vice-president.''
''But,'' a questioner asked, ''wouldn't a Southerner provide the ticket with balance - and help it win?''
''Well,'' responded Hollings, who is perhaps the most forceful of the Democratic presidential candidates in his speaking delivery, ''you must, indeed, have strong support from the South to win the presidency - but you're going to have to have more than a Southern token on the ticket.''
''I was very much a part of the Kennedy-Johnson presidential campaign in the South in 1960,'' he continued. ''And I found that it wasn't that the Southerners didn't like Kennedy - they simply didn't like Lyndon Johnson there as a token. I had the hardest time, for this reason, in selling Johnson.''
He paused, then continued: ''Now I could carry Fritz Mondale. But I don't know whether Fritz Mondale could carry me.''
''The media seem set on the idea that they got Fritz Mondale in the No. 1 spot, and who do they get for the balancing of the ticket? That balance thing isn't going to sell.''
Hollings was asked whether the Carter presidency helped Southerners in running for president.
''No, sir,'' the senator said. ''He was talking about the litany of Democratic heritage from Roosevelt to Truman to Kennedy and Johnson. That was unfortunate. I think he was a good man. He started human rights, did much at Camp David. But he did not leave a winning record. He lost.''
''I would hope that after four years I could run on my own record,'' Hollings added. ''I've put together a clear record . . . as a governor and in the Senate.''
The senator also was asked how he could take votes away from Ronald Reagan in a South that was still showing a lot of support for the President.
''Ronald Reagan is a likable man,'' Hollings began. But then, asserting that Southerners have ''an inbred feeling about the value of government,'' he said Reagan was cutting deeply into social programs that Southerners value.