Jesse Jackson is spearheading a last-ditch effort by black Democratic leaders to get black voters to support Michael Dukakis. On an around-the-clock swing through the Northeast and California last week the Rev. Mr. Jackson told enthusiastic audiences:
``Young America is facing a two-week countdown, a true challenge to come alive, to arise from cynicism and despair, to keep America strong, to make America better. They can vote for Mike Dukakis for president.''
He attacks George Bush in every address, saying the Republicans' campaign has taken on racist tones by denouncing Mr. Dukakis as a liberal and by using the photo of a black prison inmate who attacked a white couple while out on furlough.
Jackson defends liberalism: ``The Bush campaign makes scurrilous attacks on liberalism. We must not surrender to the Bush definition of liberalism.''
Crowds jam churches, college auditoriums, and public halls wherever Jackson speaks. But though potential black voters may cheer the ``country preacher,'' as many still call him, they seem reluctant to commit themselves to the Dukakis-Bentsen ticket.
Despite his obvious charisma, not only with black audiences, but also with student, white, and mixed crowds, Jackson faces a number of roadblocks in his efforts to sway people. Many say they will sit out the Nov. 8 presidential election. These include black and ``rainbow'' voters, many of whom gave Jackson their support in the Democratic primaries.
Dukakis dissenters voice these reservations:
Blacks - especially those registered and voting for the first time - are disappointed that Jackson lost the nomination. They say they cannot vote for anyone else.
A large segment of blacks are still smarting over what they see was a Dukakis snub of Jackson after the convention and the selection of Sen. Lloyd Bentsen of Texas as his running mate. They can't vote for Dukakis, but they don't like Vice-President Bush, they say.
Many voters around the nation, particularly blacks, say they still know very little about Dukakis, especially his record on key issues affecting them.
Bush is likely to get more of the black vote than the Republicans have in recent elections, according to a Gallup poll sponsored by the Joint Center for Political Study, a black think tank. The poll notes that Bush may get as much as 17 percent of the black vote; Ronald Reagan received less than 10 percent in 1980 and 1984.
Meanwhile, Jackson has met with Dukakis several times recently. Black leaders are speaking out for Dukakis. Among them are Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, black members of Congress, and leaders of the National Urban League and NAACP.
Behind the glittering fa,cade of ``name'' black supporters, however, is a touch of disillusion among workers for Dukakis. Janet Langhart, a former TV talk show host in Boston now working as an unpaid volunteer, says:
``I have a feeling that we black people may have been put on the back burner, and it may be too late for us workers to sell Dukakis to our people. Jesse is pushing hard that blacks would be better off with Michael in the White House, but they are not getting the message.''
The departure of campaign aide Donna Brazile may be a setback for Dukakis in reaching blacks around the country. She resigned as deputy national field director after making an indiscreet statement about Bush.
Ms. Brazile had also said in an earlier interview that she would like to see Dukakis appear before more black audiences. Dukakis recently addressed a rally on Chicago's South Side and is expected to appear before more black groups. He is scheduled to speak to black ministers in Toledo, Ohio, next Saturday.