Now that the Democratic race has narrowed to two candidates - with Michael Dukakis as the likely nominee - political observers are consumed with the question of whether Jesse Jackson will get the No. 2 spot on the ticket. The query begs the question of whether or not the Rev. Mr. Jackson even wants to be vice-president. Some of his top advisers indicate that the candidate has a vision well beyond 1988.
``If we don't get the nomination this time, we'll be back. We have four more runs - minimum - at [the nomination] if we don't get it,'' says Willie Brown, Jackson's national campaign director.
In a breakfast meeting yesterday with reporters, Mr. Brown, who is also the speaker of the California House, discussed the Jackson candidacy.
At the outset, Brown says it is much too early to concede the Democratic nomination to Governor Dukakis. Until the results are in from the large California and New Jersey primaries on June 7, the race is still open, he says.
``There is no way mathematically that Mike Dukakis or Mr. Jackson can end up with a sufficient number of votes ... that would result in either one having the nomination [sewn up],'' Brown says. ``That means that the superdelegates could be decisive in this contest.''
Superdelegates are the more than 600 Democratic lawmakers, party officials, and former leaders who have been selected as, in effect, uncommitted delegates at large to the party's national convention this summer.
Brown says that, with neither candidate having a majority of delegates after the primaries, the superdelegates should ``do their job at that stage of the game.'' This means, he says, factoring in ``the delegate vote strength of each one [and the] potential for the fall campaign - who would be best able to generate the Democratic base vote with a degree of enthusiasm that will get us over George Bush.'' That person, according to Brown, is clearly Jesse Jackson.
As for the No. 2 slot, Brown indicates that Jackson is not interested. ``Jackson has already made history,'' Brown says when asked if taking the vice-presidential slot might prove too much of a historical first for the black candidate to refuse.
``I don't want to get the Jackson campaign burdened with somebody thinking we are interested in the second spot,'' he says. ``We are going for the nomination.''
Brown was critical of the fact that Dukakis has garnered little support from the black community. ``Jackson has proven that he can get white votes against white candidates of every stripe, period,'' Brown says. ``Dukakis has got to prove that [he can get black votes]. Otherwise ... if he somehow manages to get the nomination, how do we prop him up in the Baptist church? ... How many hymns do you have to teach him?''
``From a black perspective,'' Brown says, ``Jackson has opened up doors that black folk probably would not have seen opened prior to the turn of the century. Before the end of this century, there will be blacks running for governors, for US senators, and getting elected.''