A new campaign

No doubt about it, the Democratic presidential race was transformed under the ice block pressure of New Hampshire's primary. From a one-man race, with Walter Mondale's formidable organizational shadow obliterating the seven-man opposition in Iowa a week ago, it is now a two-man race after Gary Hart's New Hampshire victory. To make it a three-man race, John Glenn will have to do something big in the Southern campaign in the next two weeks.

Basically, the contest now is between a message (Hart) and an organization (Mondale). Particularly in a presidential election, where the nightly news constantly throws out events and issues for campaigns to feed upon, a message candidate could have the advantage over the organizational candidate - especially against an incumbent president whose organization beat the other's organization last time around.

Mr. Mondale now will have to work harder. He will have to rethink his pitch to Democratic voters. The debate over the direction of the Democratic Party will intensify. Party voters in coming weeks will be able to ponder the issues of Democratic Past and Democratic Future and decide where they stand. The party, and the eventual victor, has to be the better off for it.

Hart's ''message'' will have to be better defined. At the moment, his message is that he represents the next generation of Democrats, Mondale the past. He is saying that the party establishment, most notably the big unions, cannot dictate the nomination outcome; it's a choice of a far larger group, the voters themselves. New directions, as in military matters, must be found for national policies. And politically, the only way to defeat Ronald Reagan is to generate an enthusiasm in what has otherwise been a passionless Democratic campaign to offer the public, especially independents, a choice. If Hart can tap into that Democratic longing to defeat Reagan and convert it into an optimistic sense of a positive Democratic mission, his New Hampshire wave could run a long way.

Meanwhile, maybe Mondale can be resourceful too. He can go on the attack now, challenging Hart to be specific just as he was himself pressed by Hart in public debates. The South, heading toward Super Tuesday in mid-March, will form Phase 2 of the campaign. It will be an all-out fight. Jesse Jackson could still win a majority of black votes in the South, despite his troubles on the Jewish issue in the North. Southern political leaders remain troubled by the technical quality of Glenn's campaign and the lack of focus of his themes. Glenn will have to prove himself on Super Tuesday. And Hart hopes that Southern dislike for big labor, big government, the Democratic establishment, and for candidates who might be characterized as soft on defense, will keep him even with Mondale.

Then comes Phase 3: The big states like Illinois later in March, then New York, and Pennsylvania in April. By then it could be effectively over, with possible last-ditch efforts in May or June as the primaries conclude.

For more than a year since he announced, Mondale has done almost everything right to foster a sense of inevitability.

Nationally, the latest surveys showed he still held a commanding lead over his rivals.

But politics is an emotional game too. Voters want somebody who can inspire them. They would prefer a choice between two inspirations, Democratic and Republican, not the lesser of two evils. Democrats haven't said yet that Hart is their man. But at least those in New Hampshire have signaled that whoever wins the nomination is going to have to earn it.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
QR Code to A new campaign
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today