IN the middle of a nationwide voter-registration campaign aimed largely at minorities, youth, and urban residents, Jesse Jackson acknowledged Thursday he couldn't say there was much enthusiasm in those camps for the Democratic ticket.
"We have a lot riding on Clinton and the people surrounding him. We have no such leverage on the Republican side," Mr. Jackson told reporters at a Monitor breakfast. "There are many who feel they are without ... sufficient enthusiasm, and they're in this anybody-but-Bush frame of reference. [They feel] that we may not like this or that tactic [by the Democrats] but we must defeat the Reagan-Bush cycle."
"The success the ticket is now enjoying [in the polls] has a lot to do with economic conditions... more than [party] strategy," he said.
On his voter-registration campaign, which will continue through next week and then will become a get-out-the-vote effort for the Democratic Party, Jackson says he sees people across the social spectrum bound by the "economic crisis."
But he said that enthusiasm is highest among those that Clinton has targeted - suburbanites, not poorer, urban minorities.
Jackson, who has had a cool relationship with Clinton and has not yet met to talk at length with the candidate, expressed support for the candidate but, similar to the voters he's seeing these days, he was less than enthusiastic himself.
He gave a lukewarm comparison of Clinton's campaign to reach all corners of the electorate with Bush's this way: "He's reaching out some, Bush is reaching out none."
Jackson said that the minority vote, traditionally Democratic but also traditionally difficult for candidates to rally, could make the difference for a candidate like Clinton if the race were to draw closer than polls now indicate.
"My hope is that the people's enthusiasm will correspond to their real needs by election day," he said of the economic "pain" he is seeing.