Unreal aspects in the campaign
THERE are unreal aspects to this year's Democratic primary campaign. For one thing, there is something akin to phoniness in the way the media and, particularly, TV seem to be trying to keep up an interest in a contest that has become so one-sided. But the race is largely over - barring a political miracle that certainly isn't indicated yet - and it has been for some time.
It isn't just that Mondale needs to pick up only 55 percent of the remaining delegates that puts him in the catbird seat. It's Mondale's hold on the public officials and political leaders who will be among convention delegates. They would be in a position to bend the outcome in Mondale's favor if the race were close.
From the outset that advantage gave Mondale a decided edge: He could have come into the convention somewhat behind and still won. And Hart would need a strong lock on the nomination to be certain of holding off a raid on his delegates by Mondale's persuasive professionals.
In another aspect reality differs from appearance in this campaign: identity. In Eugene McCarthy's widely used analysis of some time ago: ''It is clear to me that in this campaign Hart is being Kennedy, Mondale is Humphrey, and Jackson is Martin Luther King Jr.''
All three candidates still suffer from this ''identity'' problem, Mondale perhaps most of all. His style is reminiscent of Humphrey but without the dynamic touch.
In Cleveland, just before the Ohio primary, a relatively small group of Democratic activists turned out for a fund-raiser. One attendee explained that ''a lot of Mondale supporters didn't show up simply because they are not all that excited about Fritz.''
Mondale's TV image usually is a distortion. He's always been known for his friendliness, his ability to establish quickly a warm relationship with people. He does this through a bantering approach. In Cleveland, at a Ford plant, Mondale had a quip for each worker he chatted with. Nothing terribly funny: Just a little innocent kidding that they all loved.
That's Fritz Mondale. Yet the TV cameras weren't picking it up. They waited for his comments about the campaign, all uttered in a sober fashion. So once again Mondale appeared in the nation's homes as a rather formal fellow with little personal charm.
Hart finally has slipped away from the shadow of Kennedy, which he put there with his arm motions and talk of ''new ideas.'' But he has yet to explain fully his new approaches and who he really is.
Jackson is a fairly identifiable candidate. But there is still some confusion: Is he the man of redemption and love, the candidate who evokes King? Or is he the candidate who through his rhetoric and allegiances seems to pose a concern to many Jews and Southern whites?
Finally, the talk about Reagan contributes greatly to the feeling of unreality about this campaign. It comes not only from Republicans but Democrats - including some heavily involved in the campaign. There are comments like: ''Reagan is unbeatable.'' Or, ''Reagan makes these blunders but he still is high in the polls.'' Or, ''Only if Reagan makes some fatal mistake, can our man win.''
Ronald Reagan, whether he is breaking bread with Chinese leaders or just making some simple pronouncement from the White House, is dominating this Democratic primary process.