Mo Udall in the Land of the Blind

POLITICS

LAST TUESDAY night in Manchester, New Hampshire, after the primary results showed Representative Morris K. Udall in second place behind former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter, Udall said New Hampshire was where his campaign finally "took off." The next evening, in Sanders Theater, Udall said that Massachusetts would be the state where his campaign took off. If it doesn't get off the ground here in Tuesday's presidential primary, Mo Udall might as well fly himself back to Arizona and run for the Senate.

The field for tomorrow's primary is crowded and confused. There are seven major candidates: Udall, Senator Birch Bayh, R. Sargent Shriver, and former Oklahoma Senator Fred Harris are hoping to capture the liberal vote; Alabama Governor George C. Wallace and Senator Henry M. Jackson are after the more conservative, anti-busing Democrats; and Jimmy Carter is trying to appeal to just about everybody.

Udall, like all the others, has been trying to set himself apart from the field in some way. So far, he has pursued this end by claiming that he alone has concentrated on the issues.

The press package Udall's staff put together and distributes to reporters who board the Udall press van for the first time is thick with mimeographed position papers. In addition to his biography and favorable press clippings, there is a collection of 31 legal-sized single-spaced pages titled "Congressman Morris K. Udall Addresses the Issues." There are also five "Regional Papers" specifically addressed to New England: "New England's Energy Problem," "New England Consumers," and so on. Finally, there is the blizzard of press releases Udall has sent out in the past few weeks--on Roxbury's developmental problems, on the future of Fort Devens, even on Red Dye No. 2 Summing up all this mimeographed effort, Udall often says. "I've talked in more detail about the issues than any other candidate in this campaign."

Udall is justifiably proud of that statement. He is at his best when answering questions about his stand on just about anything. In contrast to Jimmy Carter, whose blinding smile and "Hi--I'm Jimmy Carter," introduction have made him an effective personal campaigner, Udall stands woodenly, smiles slightly, shakes hands perfunctorily, and says merely, "Hello, nice to see you," and then lumbers on.

But Udall's constituency is made up of the kind of people who like to read about "the issues," and who like to have their questions about the safety of Red Dye No. 2 answered--middle- and upper middle-class liberals. Again, there is in Udall's campaign a sharp contrast with Jimmy Carter, who said last week that he would not detail many of his positions until after he received the nomination. That strategy may seem incredible to Udall's issueoriented liberals in Massachusetts, but Carter is sure it will help him to come out on top in New York.

Massachusetts is filled with the middle-class liberals that Udall appeals to, especially in Boston's bedroom suburbs. Udall should do well there, and in his pre-election speeches, he bills Massachustts as the "test state" for the liberal Democratic candidates. The liberal Democrats should "coalesce" around the liberal candidate with the strongest showing in Massachusetts, he says, confident that he will be that liberal.

On April 6, however, the traveling primary circus moves to New York, and Bayh contends that the acid test for liberals should come then. Bayh says that he has a strong organization in New York, and has put together more delegate slates there than any other liberal candidate. Now running scared, Bayh hopes to finish well enough in Massachusetts to continue on through to New York.

The problem, for Bayh, Udall, and Shriver, is money--they're running out. Although several candidates spent close to the federal limit of about $200,000 in New Hampshire, nobody is going to come close to the $600,000 limit for Massachusetts. Jackson is spending about $400,000, but Udall has spent only about $275,000 so far. And he fears that unless one or two of the liberal Democrats drop out after tomorrow, the liberal money will be split among them all, and no one will have enough to wage an effective campaign in New York. Even Bayh, with his large organization, will be paralyzed unless he has enough to make it work--money for telephones, literature, billboards, and radio and television time.

And in Massachusetts, there are dangers in relying solely on middle-class liberals, and Udall has been campaigning for other votes. Unlike Bayh and Jackson, Udall is not popular with organized labor. His only union endorsement so far is from the Massachusetts Teachers Association, which is not a trade union but an organization of white-collar professionals. And on Friday morning he went into East Boston and met workers who had just been laid off, that evening he went to Worcester for a "time" Udall's term for a reception, where the crowd was primarily Italian-American working-class people. His greeting there was warm, but several voters said they still liked Jackson and Wallace.

From Worcester, Udall drove to a reception in Wellesley at a supporter's home. It was a typical wine-and-cheese gathering, but a local Democratic official said that of a normal 11,000-voter turnout in Wellesley, only 1700 are Democrats. Why would Udall bother with such a small town? Money. After the reception, a Udall staffer said, "We just made $3000 in there."

One of Udall's main campaign tactics is the endorsement. From Archibald Cox and Tip O'Neill down through Hale Champion and newly-elected State Representative William Mullin '75, Udall has been collecting as many names as he can find--so far, he has a list of over 70 Massachusetts endorsements.

The man whose name Udall most frequently drops, however, isn't around to comment on his role in the Udall campaign. At every Massachusetts streetcorner stop in the last few days, Udall begins by saying that 16 years ago he campaigned in Arizona for "a young man running for president from Massachusetts--John Kennedy." Even though Kennedy's brother-in-law is running against him, Udall never fails to mention his JFK connection.

In Roxbury on Saturday morning, a man watching Udall and his entourage of staffers and reporters from his doorstep shouted, "Is that Birch Bayh?" On Friday night a Worcester politician introduced "Senator Udall" to the crowd. Udall is still struggling for recognition, but may yet do well, or even win tomorrow. He should certainly do well in Cambridge, even without an endorsement from rumored-supporter President Bok.