Jesse Jackson is finding New York to be a tough audience. The Rev. Mr. Jackson, whose growing support among white voters has nurtured his campaign this year, faces major hurdles as the Democratic campaign races toward New York State's all-important primary next Tuesday.
One-third of the white, Democratic voters in the Empire State are Jewish. Many Jews have not forgotten Jackson's offhanded reference in 1984 to New York City as ``Hymietown,'' and to Jews as ``Hymies.''
Further, New York Democrats are more blue-collar than those in Connecticut and Wisconsin, where Jackson broke above 20 percent among whites. Blue-collar whites are much less supportive of Jackson than more educated and affluent white liberals appear to be.
Lee M. Miringoff, a political analyst and pollster with the Marist Institute in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., says Jackson needs a ``20-20 result'' in New York to win.
Dr. Miringoff explains that to defeat the front-runner, Gov. Michael Dukakis, Jackson needs a combination of two factors.
First, Jackson needs 20 percent of the white vote along with most of the black vote. Second, Jackson needs the third candidate in the race, Sen. Albert Gore Jr., to get at least 20 percent of the total vote cast in the primary.
A 20-20 result for Jackson and Senator Gore would pull Governor Dukakis's vote down below 40 percent, and allow Jackson to eke out victory with a narrow plurality.
``Right now, Jackson isn't getting enough white votes to generate that result,'' Miringoff says. And one reason for Jackson's problem is a lack of Jewish support. The latest Marist poll gives Jackson only about 15 percent among whites, mostly Protestants and Roman Catholics.
Meanwhile, Mr. Gore - although gaining strength - still has a mere 7 percent of the total vote. The same Marist poll gives Dukakis 48 percent. Jackson gets 32 percent, bolstered by heavy support among blacks.
Ordinarily, Jackson's greatest strength among New York whites might be among Jews, who have a strong tradition of support for civil rights and liberal causes. But Jewish rancor toward Jackson, fanned incessantly by New York City Mayor Edward Koch, is dominating the final days of the campaign.
``Jews and supporters of Israel who are not Jewish would be crazy to vote for him [Jackson],'' the mayor said in one of his typical comments this week.
Jackson is appealing to Jews to forgive and forget.
``Surely, at this hour the sons and daughters of the Holocaust and sons and daughters of slavery must find common ground,'' he told reporters.
``To raise up a race or religious litmus test does not contribute to healing, which is what I'm interested in doing,'' he added.
But analysts, such as Larry Hugick of the Gallup Organization, see little evidence that Jackson is making progress.
The key for Jackson from the very beginning of 1988 has been white voters of all religions. Although blacks make up a major element in the Democratic Party (one of every four voters in the New York primary), without his steady rise in white support, Jackson would have stumbled in key Northern states.
Mr. Hugick says Jackson's white support is coming from several main areas: from voters between the ages of 30 and 49, from better-educated (``egghead'') voters, from liberals, and sometimes from men.
Many of them have ``the values of the [antiwar] '60s,'' says Mr. Hugick. They are baby-boomers who grew up with a value system that included strong feelings about Vietnam and civil rights. Further, many of them are college educated - a group that is ``more tolerant about race,'' Hugick says.
Unfortunately for Jackson, many of those voters in New York happen to be Jewish.
``It's going to be difficult for him to get 20 percent of the white vote in New York because of the high percentage of Jewish voters still angry about `Hymietown' and Jackson's embrace [in 1979] of [Yasser] Arafat [leader of the PLO],'' Hugick says.
Jackson declined an invitation this week to address a conference of Jewish leaders where Gore and Dukakis both spoke.
Jackson's rivals see their opening. Gore, in particular, has repeatedly criticized Jackson for his views on the Mideast. Gore says the choice for Jewish voters in New York ``could not be starker.'' He adds: ``In a Gore administration, no one will ever have reason to doubt America's commitment to the survival and security of Israel.''