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Keeping a Low Profile

The Men and Women Behind the Candidates

By Jean E. Engelmayer

TODAY is a day of rest for the 1984 Presidential candidates. The frantic handshaking and phone-calling has all but ceased; the months of activity are over in New Hampahire. The eight Democratic candidates, along with other "84 hopefuls 500 miles south in the White House, are sitting and waiting, listening to the tallies come in.

But as the candidates appear on TV to make grandious victory or concession speeches, their strategists are tirelessly preparing for the next contest. Forever drafting the newest issues statement or planning the next media blitz, these key staffers know no respite.

Who are the invisible men and women behind each candidate? Who really calls the shots? For the incumbent, the answer is easy: President Reagan's campaign staff are the graduates of his 1980 bid, experienced professionals from the Administration and longtime cronies from California. Running unopposed in his own party, Reagan can make use of all the brainpower available to the Republicans, tapping talent nurtured by the crowded 1980 Republican field, and drawing on the best operatives across the nation. Whether they were once Ford men, Bush men, or Dole men, today these GOP politices have only one thing on their mind-the reelection of Ronald Reagan.

"There's a lot of political savvy around at the top," says IOP Fellow David R. Gergen, the President's former director of communications. Returning to call the plays as campaign chairman is Sen. Paul Laxalt (R.-Nev.), the person on Capitol Hill closest to Reagan; the chief strategist and campaign manager is Ed Rollins, a former Oakland Raider and assistant to the president for political affairs in the White House. The Reagan team also managed to grab consultant Stu Spencer, the premier political tactician who gave President Gerald Ford's 1976 campaign the only real intellectual power it ever had.

The President himself is not very involved in day-to-day strategy decisions; according to campaign press assistant John Buckley, Reagan "prefers to keep the Oval Office removed from the operation." Not too removed, however-his two closest White House aides, special counsel James Baker and chief of staff Michael Deaver, are reportedly in very close contact with Laxalt and Rollins, the pair acts as the President's eyes and ears on the campaign, allowing him to concentrate publicly on the affairs of state.

"We're fortunate to have a candidate who is comfortable acting presidential but who also enjoys stumping for an election," says Buckley. "Whereas Jimmy Carter only had the incumbency to speak for him in 1976, we also have the President's raw political instincts," he adds.

While the Republicans are riding high this year on party cohesion, the eight Democratic campaigns are united only in their opposition to the President. Their organizations differ widely on both strategy and personnel. Frontrunner Walter F. Mondale-as well as Ohio Sen. John H. Glenn and Sen. Ernest F. Hollings-are surrounded by experienced party operatives, veterans of the last four Democratic campaigns. Others, like Colorado Sen. Gary W. Hart and Sen. Alan M. Cranston (D-Calif.), are stressing fresh blood, pulling in young people with high energy but little campaign background. Former Sen. George S. McGovern and former Florida Gov. Reubin D. Askey are relying on home-state buddies and old supporters; the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson is building a team of minority leaders who recently helped propel several Blacks to mayoral posts around the country.

For the first time in campaign history, all the organizations have women in high-ranking positions-and the candidates have been quick to publicize that fact in an attempt to woo the support of the nation's powerful women's groups. No women are campaign managers or directors, but more than ever hold key secondtier posts. At a recent debate, the hopefuls went so far as to tick off their prominent female staff members. "I'll see you one press secretary, and raise you a treasurer," one candidate joked.

And though the names of campaign power bosses are unknown to the average voter, the hierarchy is clearly fixed for those on the inside. Aides are quick to list those they see as holding the reins-and those perceptions differ little within each team.

During the early months of the campaign, all the Democratic contenders scrambled for the allegiance of the seasoned campaign veterans. Most successful by far was the former Vice President; the Mondale organization is generally considered to be the best-run Democratic campaign machine since the campaign of John F. Kennedy '40. The team already sports well over 100 full-time staff members and more than 15 independent consultants; many are veterans of the two Carter/Mondale campaigns or the Mondale vice-presidency.

Leading the team as acting chairman is James A. Johnson, a fellow Minnesotan who has worked with Mondale since 1972. Johnson was Mondale's executive assistant in the White House, and the deputy director of the 1976 campaign. Campaign manager Robert G. Beckel is the newest addition to the inner circle. As the 'nuts and bolts' man of the campaign, Beckel an experienced operative who worked on the Carter campaign, oversees daily strategy decisions. Top names in the Mondale campaign are also Michael Berman, treasurer and formerly Mondale's counsel in the White House, and Maxine Isaacs, his long-time press secretary and an up-and-coming power in the organization.

Glenn's campaign is likewise composed of professional political operatives-but most are new to the candidate himself; Glenn's Senate staff has remained largely in their Senate office. Instead, calling the shots are Bob Keefe, who travels with Glenn and helps him react to day-to-day crises, and campaign manager Jerry Vinto, a Boston native who rose to prominence in the 1980 Presidential bid of Mass. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy '54.

Rather than delegating responsibility to the men in the field, Glenn until recently had reserved the final say on all strategy decisions to himself; some aides have attributed the campaign's early disorganization to this rigid centralization of administration.

Unlike the highly professional Mondale and Glenn organizations, McGovern is relying on a close-meshed, down-home team to propel him into his desired third or fourth place in New Hampshire. The man who runs the machine, George Cunningham, also ran McGovern's two congressional and five senatorial campaigns. A fellow South Dakotan, Cunningham first met the candidate in 1954, working side-by-side with McGovern in South Dakota's Young Democrats organization. He hasn't left the Senator's side since. "George McGovern and I go back a long way, to common roots and experience in the same state," Cunningham says.

McGovern is also, quite literally, keeping his campaign in the family-his two daughters, Mary and Ann, manage the organization's finance and office administration respectively, and "provide a lot of direction at the heart of the campaign," Cunningham says.

But aides agree that the candidate is his own closest advisor. McGovern reportedly makes all the major decisions, writes much of his own material, and often speaks extemporaneously. "His statements aren't filtered through a lot of people," Cunningham says, adding, "What you see is what you get-George McGovern undiluted."

By contrast, such personal involvement in all levels of the campaign is exactly what aides say Hart is trying to avoid. Campaign manager Oliver Henkel explains that Hart, himself McGovern's 1972 campaign manager, "knows from personal experience how distinct the roles of candidate and campaign manager must remain. You can't wear two hats at once," he adds. Hart tries to leave strategy and tactical decisions almost entirely up to his senior staff-"for better or worse, he takes all my advice," says Henkel.

Such reliance is somewhat surprising because Henkel admits he brings no political background to the job. A classmate of Hart's from Yale Law School, Henkel quietly practiced law in Cleveland for 19 years until Hart called him last year and asked him to manage his campaign. "I told him he probably had the wrong man," says Henkel, "but he wanted fresh blood in the process-he didn't want the campaign to be run like the others. "Henkel adds that Hart, a naturally shy man, was also "anxious to have someone who wouldn't try to change his public persona."

The other distinctive feature of the Hart campaign is its youth-most of the top positions are filled by people in their late 20s. Some key staffers are even younger-the man who heads Hart's delegate selection effort is a junior at Yale, and the organization's computer expert is a 14-year-old American University sophomore.

Like Hart, Cranston's candidacy depends on coming in third place today, according to campaign manager Sergio Bendixen. The senior staffers in his organization, including Bendixen himself, are almost all new to the candidate-a few have been involved in previous Presidential efforts, but most are "young people who've never been in any Presidential campaign before," Bendixen says. Like Hart, Cranston lets his campaign manager make all the decisions, except for the "general game plan;" Bendixen calls that an "ideal arrangement so far."

The staff of the Jackson campaign, by contrast, are entirely subordinate to the candidate himself. According to assistant press secretary Eric Easter, Jackson "is the sole decision maker" in that organization-he determines issue stands, arranges his schedules, preps himself for interviews. His senior staffers are mostly minorities who have worked with him for a long time; the two to watch are campaign manager Arnold Pinkney, a veteran of Andrew Young's Atlanta mayoral race and a one-time candidate for mayor of Cleveland; and Preston Love, a computer specialist who has advised both Young and Chicago Mayor Harold Washington.

The two trailing candidates, Askew and Hollings, would both view a fourth place finish as a "moral victory," aides say, but they're running their campaign organizations very differently to achieve that goal. The top people in Askew's campaign are old acquaintances from his days in Miami, says campaign manager Jim Krog; the candidate will have to do well in New Hampshire to overcome his image as a regional candidate. As for strategy decisions, Krog says, "I call the shots."

That final word is a privilege Hollings reserves for himself, says Brooks Fudenberg, the candidate's press assistant. And in contrast to McGovern's staff of old faithfuls, Hollings's top staff have only recently met him, though many have had substantial political experience. The campaign chairman is the current president of Duke University, Terry Sanford, who once served as governor of North Carolina and launched an abortive Presidential bid of his own in 1972. The campaign director, Curt Moffatt, was the senior advance man for Arizona Rep. Morris Udall and later in 1976 for Carter as well, and is active in the Democratic National Committee's fundraising and rules committees.

So today's New Hampshire results, like those throughout the election, depend largely on the "invisible" men and women-the ones who, as many note, "just never stop moving."

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