How Jimmy Carter Does It

Nice guys may finish last, but a sweet-talking candidate for President finished first in a key Democratic presidential primary this spring, knocking most of the original contenders out of the race. The Atlantic's Washington editor followed Jimmy Carter's march through Pennsylvania, and witnessed a new kind of love story, as well as portents of trouble.

Getting to know you

“Where’s he from, anyway?”
“Georgia, I think. He’s the ex-governor of Georgia. Or is it Alabama?”

—Conversation between two young women in the lobby of the downtown Holiday Inn of Erie, Pennsylvania, as the commotion subsides after Jimmy Carter and his substantial entourage have checked in.

Although the Mason-Dixon Line forms the southern border of Pennsylvania, the South seems far away to most Pennsylvanians. It is where the soldiers came from who were decisively defeated at Gettysburg, the turning point the Civil War. And it is where many of the blacks came from, during World War II and since, to settle in places like Philadelphia—once the “City of Brotherly Love,” now a cauldron seething with racial and social tensions. To citizens of the Keystone State, the South is what lies between the North and Miami, and it’s where the liberal kids went in the l960s to help fight the civil rights battles. The cuisine and the accent of southerners, their mannerisms and metaphors are as foreign in Harrisburg and Butler as those of the French. There is a lurking suspicion that southern folks spend a lot of their time lying in bed or looking for snakes. There is also a vague suspicion, and occasionally solid evidence to back it up, that when Pennsylvanians lose their jobs, it is because the factories where they worked are moving south to find cheaper, non-union labor. (Henry Jackson tried to whip that suspicion into a campaign issue—to no avail.)

But it is Jimmy Carter’s view, as paraphrased by his wife, Rosalynn, that “the people are the same most everywhere you go ... they just make their living in different ways.” Their hostility and uncomfortableness can be dealt with. In Pennsylvania, as in New Hampshire or Iowa or Florida or Wisconsin, they’re available to be approached, cajoled, persuaded, and—well, you know—sweet-talked in that nice southern way. Carter believes that Pennsylvanians, like all other Americans, are fundamentally “filled with love.” That means they also are quite susceptible to falling in love. This spring they did, with that man of the New South who, as he puts it, “intends” to be President.

It was only at the last moment that Jimmy Carter, Henry “Scoop” Jackson of Washington, Morris Udall of Arizona, and the rest of the Democratic party discovered that the Pennsylvania primary would be important in 1976. That is not usually the case. Early filing and withdrawal dates generally keep the ballot there cluttered and confusing, unaffected by the results elsewhere. And Pennsylvania is a difficult and expensive state in which to campaign. The people in the eastern third of the state consider the western third to be a part of the Midwest, and the people in the western third consider the eastern third to be in the orbit, if not the suburbs, of New York. In the middle and in various corners live some 3 million other people, a quarter of the state’s total population, who still make their livelihood from agriculture. Labor is very strong, but there are plenty of political anomalies: Pennsylvania went for Herbert Hoover in 1932, and even today, despite an enormous Democratic edge in registered voters, it is represented by two Republicans in the United States Senate. This time around, Pennsylvania was expected to help clarify the perplexing search for a Democratic nominee.

Carter’s chairman for the state was Jack Sullivan, a businessman from the Philadelphia suburb of Jenkintown and a political neophyte—in fact, a registered Republican who had signed up to help after receiving a routine solicitation letter that Carter sent to all of his classmates in the class of 1947 at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. None of Pennsylvania’s recognized Democratic leaders were behind Carter until Mayor Pete Flaherty of Pittsburgh, on his own initiative, contacted the campaign people in Atlanta. Flaherty got a call back from Carter, along with an invitation to meet the candidate in Rochester, New York, and travel and talk with him for a day. An independent, somewhat conservative, anti-machine type himself, Flaherty returned to Pittsburgh overflowing with love for Carter and committed to stump the state for him. That was a help, because although Flaherty had lost the 1974 Senate race to Republican incumbent Richard Schweiker, he had 70 percent statewide recognition and a wildly enthusiastic following among almost all of the twenty-nine distinct ethnic groups in the city he had been governing for seven years on a balanced budget. “I don’t think the people want their congressmen running the country,” Pete Flaherty remarked to this reporter as he scanned the field of alternatives to Carter; “and America isn’t looking for a liberal President.”

But to put across a man who was virtually unknown and unrecognizable to the people in Pennsylvania would take more than an old classmate, a big city mayor, and some good television spots. Carter was booked for eleven solid days of campaigning, and his family was scheduled for appearances across the state—Rosalynn, sons Jack, Chip and Jeff, their wives, and even one daughter-in-law’s mother. Before or after the candidate’s own visits to an area, they would hit the surrounding communities, speaking at luncheons, granting television, newspaper, and radio interviews, until it seemed as if Carter, or Carters, were everywhere. There are few news outlets in the state, including weekly papers and dawn-to-dusk radio stations that made it through the month of April without being Carterized.

The message was the simple, comforting one that had worked so well elsewhere: Jimmy wasn’t claiming to be better than everybody else, just one of us folks. One of the rare jokes in his repertoire, but one which usually gets a laugh goes something like this: “I’m not saying I’m the best qualified person in this room to be President. Many of you out there might be able to do just as good a job as I can, or better ... but I sure do thank y’all for not running this year. There are enough candidates already.” Vote for me, he said, and we will restore to the presidency all the “good and decent and honest and truthful and and competent and compassionate” about the American people. “You don’t plot murder and I don’t plot murder, so why should our government plot murder against some foreign leader?” No more Vietnams or Cambodias—wars that were decided upon without consulting the people—no more Watergates, no more secrecy and cynicism in government. The audiences don’t seem to worry about Carter’s unbridled, unmitigated, intense, enigmatic desire to become President, because that is not the prime message he is sending them in public appearances.

A view from Johnstown

Steve Wasylyshyn, a man of Ukrainian descent who works as a painter at the Bethlehem Steel mill, and his friend Joe Porinshak, a Slovak who is retired from his job as a sign painter at the same mill, keep their distance from the crowd gathered on Central Square in Johnstown to meet Jimmy Carter. These steelworkers are resentful of the fuss that is being made, and would like it to be understood by campaign reporters that Carter’s visit is not the most important thing to happen here in a long time. Far from it. First of all, Johnstown, their city of 42,476 people, is a pretty important place. It was the scene of the Johnstown Flood of May 1889, one of the worst in American history, when the Conemaugh River broke through an earth dam and killed 2,200 instantly. Many luminaries s—including actors James Stewart and Charles Bronson, steel executives Roger Blough and Lewis Foy, football star Jack Ham, and baseball pitchers Pete Vukavich and Gene Pentzs—came from the area. Gene Kelly once had a dance studio over on Main Street, where he taught ballet and tap dancing. And Paul Newman (a Udall supporter) happens to be in residence in Johnstown, making a movie about minor-league hockey with the help of the Johnstown Jets. Porinshak, in fact, has been getting $2.30 an hour for going down to the War Memorial and the railroad station to be an extra in the film.

Wasylyshyn and Porinshak lean against a building and grouse about Carter: “He looks too young … He’s got too much glamour ... We want someone who looks like a leader, and none of the Democrats running so far do … He’s got too much teeth; he reminds me too much of Kennedy … Instead of showing his teeth, he should be more serious ... I read somewhere that he’s all shell and no peanut.” If the rank and file of the steelworkers had their way, says Wasylyshyn, they would choose “Hubert Humphreys.” Yet the two know enough about Carter to set straight a woman who thinks he is from North Carolina, and they have a vague notion that Carter understands that you cannot simply do away with “relief” (welfare) as some others naively believe. (After all, they reason, what would happen to all the people who are employed by the welfare system?)

But in the crowd were Carter converts: One elderly couple, reluctant to give their names, said they would not vote for anyone who was already part of the government in Washington; if they couldn’t have Carter, they would take either Ronald Reagan or George Wallace, in that order. A retired miner said that Carter could probably count on fifty votes from his family, because he is “just as good as anybody else”; but beyond that, “he’s sociable, and he’s not hiding nothing.” There was also the usual assortment of religious fanatics who show up at many Carter appearances, drawn by advance knowledge of his religiosity, but then go away disappointed when the candidate won’t promise to “put Jesus in the White House.” What Carter would promise, in a little speech delivered as he stood on a park bench, was that “when I’m elected President, you’ll have a friend in the White House.” They seemed inclined to believe him.


”It’s amazing, but there are still mostly nice people in this campaign ... but the sharks are already circling around—the people without whom it is supposed to be impossible to have any kind of campaign.”
—Patt Derian, Democratic national committeewoman from Mississippi, who became an early follower of Carter’s after a meeting with him in the Atlanta airport in the spring of 1975

Few members of Jimmy Carter’s inner circle are people with a national reputation, or indeed much political experience at all, except that gained at Carter’s side during his term as governor of Georgia. (That doesn’t stop some of them from being manipulative—notably campaign manager Hamilton Jordan, thirty-one, and press secretary Jody Powell, thirty-two.) Assistant press secretary Betty Rainwater joined Carter after a brief career as a singer. Carter’s ace “delegate coordinator,” Rick Hutcheson, is only twenty-four and still officially on leave from his graduate work in political science at Berkeley. Jerry Rafshoon, forty-two, designer of Carter’s effective television commercials, is an Atlanta advertising man who had the same job for Carter in the 1966 and 1970 Georgia governorship races. Greg Schneiders, twenty-nine, who is almost always at Carter’s side and controls access to him nearly as tightly as H. R. Haldeman once did for Richard Nixon, had owned and sold two restaurants in Washington and was running a food service consulting business when he heard Carter speak for the first time while on vacation in the summer of 1975. He put food service on the shelf and came to work for Carter.

Scott Douglass looks considerably older, but he is only eighteen and a high school graduate. He was a volunteer in Carter’s 1970 campaign as a junior high school student in Gainesville, Georgia, and kept in touch with the governor after he moved with his family to Virginia. Just out of high school, he spent the summer of 1975 serving voluntarily as Carter’s chauffeur and doing other odd jobs in New Hampshire; when the fall came, he decided he was having such a good time that he would postpone college, and he went on the paid campaign staff. In the Pennsylvania primary, Douglass did full-fledged advance work.

Some staff workers, like David Dunn, twenty-six, on leave from his position as an assistant attorney general of Alabama, originally came on board for short-term stints with a simple, limited priority: to help Carter knock George Wallace out of contention and out of national politics. But, in Dunn’s case, Carter worked his famous charm on him and Dunn signed up to work long hours as a regional fund-raising director at very low pay. Dick Weinstein, fifty years old, spending a sabbatical year from his law firm in Norwalk, Connecticut, walked into a Carter office in West Palm Beach, Florida, during the primary campaign there. Asked what he could do to help, he replied, “I can think.” Before long, he showed up as national chairman of “Citizens for Carter.”

But once the Carter juggernaut had begun rolling, more and more prominent figures seemed to be on hand: former Kennedy aide Ted Sorensen; William van den Heuvel, the New York society Democrat who had been close to Robert Kennedy and John Lindsay; young Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware; Frank Mankiewicz, the former campaign manager for George McGovern. There were hungry faces from the ranks of the once-prominent; among the election-night crowd at Carter headquarters in the Philadelphia Sheraton, for example, was Endicott “Chub” Peabody, former governor of Massachusetts and now a Washington lawyer eager to get back into the action. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr. was along for part of the ride.

 Soul politics

Jimmy Carter was exhausted by the time he arrived at a branch of the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh for a hastily arranged early-evening session with black voters from a neglected corner of the city. It had been a long and taxing day—handshaking outside the Homestead Works of U. S. Steel beginning just after 6 A.M., a trip deep into a coal mine at Finleyville, a speech to students at Duquesne University, a call-in radio talk show on WEEP. Arriving uncharacteristically early (Carter prides himself on sticking precisely to his schedule, never late, never early), he huddled in a back room with Congressman Andrew Young of Atlanta, Georgia State Representative Ben Brown, and other black advisers. Notably absent was Pete Flaherty, who, for all the affection he stirs in the hearts of other Pittsburghers, is not very popular with the city’s blacks.

(Carter has a special relationship with, and pays a particular deference to, blacks. The previous week, when three executives of the United workers came to the Pittsburgh Hilton and wanted to interrupt a closed meeting he was having with thirty influential local blacks, even intimations of precious labor support for his candidacy did not cause Carter to risk offending the blacks. They said no, they did not want to let the white unionists into the meeting, and so Carter had his staff send the union politicos away with the promise that he would call them when he had a chance.)

Young, Brown, and J. T. Thomas, defensive back for the Pittsburgh Steelers, gave the candiate rousing introductions and endorsements. The library hall was barely two-thirds full, counting children, even after an infusion of city sanitation workers, but Carter put in his most heartfel spellbinding performance of the day. His sleeves rolled up, his eyes glazed over with fatigue, his trademark smile faded, he told of putting Martin Luther King, Jr.’s portrait into the Georgia State Capitol while he was governor, and of his belief that “the best thing that ever happen the South is the passage of the civil rights acts … They liberated whites as well as blacks.” He spoke of his eight-year-old daughter, Amy, at school back home in Plains, where she has no idea (according to Carter) how many of the children in her class are black and how many white. And he apologized again for the “ethnic purity” line, saying those who know him well realize that that he believes that “not only do blacks have a right to equality, but blacks are equal.” Then came his flights of hyperbole, which few people other than Jimmy Carter would get away with: “I would rather die than disappoint Andrew Young or Martin Luther King, Sr. or Coleman Young.”

Part of Carter’s appeal to black people obviously comes from his ability to understand and relate to the way they see the world. He attributes some of the excesses of the Vietnam War to racism: “We wouldn’t have fire-bombed villages in England, France, or Germany.” He recognizes blacks’ new interest in American foreign policy in Africa: “In Angola, we clung to the Portuguese to the last moment ... The Cuban government, on the other hand, had learned the people’s languages, formed friendships, and studied their politics ... Our reaction was to send in weapons and let the people kill each other.” But Carter can also put a funny twist on a serious issue: “I think we can find better ambassador to send to Africa than Shirley Temple” (who has served in Ghana under Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford).

After Carter concluded his speech to the black audience with an appeal that they join his “famy” and his “crusade” for the presidency, and answered a few questions, there was a tense moment as a heavyset middle-aged man rose at the front of the room, blocking the candidate’s departure and demanding to be heard. He shouted about “tokenism” and the fact that “People out here [in the black neighborhoods] are not given a chance.” Suddenly the atmosphere was electric, and here and there came a shout of “A-men.” A woman in the rear of the room strutted back and forth, waving her scarf and interjecting her own shouts: “Now let’s talk about the real issues.” “Let’s make answer the questions.” The chairman of the event looked frightened and tried to shut off this unscheduled epilogue. But Carter stayed and listened cautiously. “I’m not in favor of tokenism either,” he said meekly. In a flash, it became clear that Carter’s inquisitor was on his side after all, and he thanked the man from Georgia for being “thee only candidate to show his face in this neighhood.”

Carter smiled his smile, jumped off the stage and bounded out of the hall, shaking hands and hugging along the way. He felt good about this appearance. His motorcade worked its way through a rainstorm and an electric power failure to get to the Pittsburgh airport. There were more votes to get before the day was done, across the state in Wilkes­-Barre.

Is a fib a lie?

Many national reporters covering Carter probably are rougher on him than on candidates who speak in the familiar Washington idiom. They catch his contradictions and his minor outrages in circumstances where they might let others’ slip by. Of course, Carter does set himself up for some of this scrutiny, with his assertions that he will never ever tell a lie or make a “misleading statement,” that he reads a chapter of the Bible in Spanish every night, or that he often makes as many as 120 long-distance phone calls a day in search of support. One form of sport on his press bus is to hunt for little fibs and exaggerations: Was Carter really at the plant gate by daybreak, or was it already light out when he left the hotel? Were those actually tears in the workers’ eyes when they shook FDR Jr.’s hand, or was it drizzling? Were there 2,000 black medical students in that audience when he delivered his speech on national health insurance, or just a few hundred?

Carter returns the favor by showing an unusually detailed interest in the inner workings of the press, more so than any presidential candidate since John F. Kennedy. He is familiar with deadlines, and understands the difference between what will make news in a small town and what on the national level. He has his own list of “enemies” in the press, believes that some of the negative articles about him are motivated by pure maliciousness, and forgives very slowly, if ever, for any coverage that he considers unfair.

No big shots

The Muzak at the Berks County Municipal Airport was playing an instrumental version of “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” as Jimmy Carter’s chartered United Airlines 727 jet approached from its forty-mile hop over the hills from Philadelphia for a two-and-a-half-hour visit to Reading.

Carter’s political pollster Pat Caddell had advised the campaign staff to hit as many small towns and rural areas as possible to help overcome the lead that organized labor and the professional politicians were expected to build up for Scoop Jackson in Philadelphia and other cities. Originally, Carter had been booked into Lancaster; but after Rosalynn Carter spent an infuriating six hours in that arch-Republican town and found only a handful of Democrats to talk to, she told Jimmy he could use his time more wisely elsewhere. So Carter gave his staff an unequivocal “no Lancaster” order, and they sent him instead to Reading, population 87,643, on the Democratic side of Pennsylvania Dutch country.

The chief greeter on hand for the occasion was State Senator Mike O’Pake, a trim, thirty-six-year-old man with television makeup spread thickly on his upper lip. O’Pake had never met Jimmy Carter before, and did not really know that much about the candidate. He had been recruited to the cause eight days earlier when the Carter people came through looking for an independent-minded Democratic politician who would fit the Carter mold. O’Pake was just right for the team, because he had defeated an older incumbent Democratic state senator in the last election after only a few years in the state House of Representatives.

With O’Pake were two farmers, Harold Burgert, a member of his agricultural advisory committee, and Warren Lamm, who had been christened just a few days earlier “Berks County coordinator” of the Carter campaign. Both of them, dressed in city clothes and speaking in an authentic Pennsylvania Dutch accent, told of their enthusiasm for Carter and their eagerness to be back in the Democratic mainstream after feeling alienated from George McGovern’s candidacy in 1972 (”He was too liberal for the farmer”). Carter’s philosophy of government, said Lamm, “is almost identical to my own: Everybody is entitled to a fair shake. No special interest groups.”

Burgert and Lamm were pleased that Jimmy Carter was coming to Reading; his visit recalled for them the fact that President Kennedy had been there twice in his political career. Carter gave his stock stump speech in the chapel of Albright College, a small, Methodist-supported institution. “We’ve lost our vision of what the country ought to be,” he said, yet offered reassurance that “our economic system is still strong, our system of government the best on earth.” Since the students were inclined to be suspicious of big-city bosses like Mayor Frank Rizzo of Philadelphia, they applauded Carter’s assertion that “I don’t depend on people like Rizzo to put me in office … I go right to the people.” A middle-class group like most of the audiences Carter addresses, they responded when he said, “I don’t intend to be a big shot, even when I’m President” with applause, cheers, and whistles. Carter answered their questions about religion (”I believe very strongly in the separation of church and state”), the Middle East (”I believe we have a commitment to preseve Israel’s right to exist”), jobs (”I know what it means to work for a living”), and the postal service (“I don’t know the answer”); but he evaded one about tax breaks for single people. And, anxious to dispel his image of being “vague on the issues,” he promised that if his listeners wrote to him at “P.O Box 1976—that’s this year—Atlanta, Georgia,” with questions on everything from amnesty and abortion to Korea and the Panama Canal, they would promptly receive detailed answers, position papers and printed speeches in reply.

Later, when the votes were counted in Berks County, Jimmy Carter had almost as many Scoop Jackson and Mo Udall combined.

A counter-organization

”I’m an organization man. If I have to take Carter, I’ll take him, but I’ll have to swallow hard ... . He scares the hell out of me.”
— Martin L. Murray, Democrat of Ashley, president pro tempore of the Pennsylvania State Senate on the morning of the primary.

The professional politicians take a dim view of Jimmy Carter, in part because he is an upstart who has not paid his dues. “Oh sure, he’s wearing well with certain people,” John R. Torquatl, chairman of the Cambria County Democratic Committee for the last thirty-six years, national committeeman from the last for ten, and a member of the governor’s cabinet twenty years ago; “but at the convention, you have different people.” He recalled his own role in when Estes Kefauver came to the convention in a strong position but the pros got together a late draft of Adlai Stevenson. Carter would be with Torquatl—in another four or eight years.

Conventions? Jimmy Carter has been to only one, in 1972. That was when, as governor of Georgia, he delivered the nominating speech for Scoop Jackson; and since they have been slinging at each other, that footnote to history is something of an embarssment. Carter’s private explanation is that back in the early 1950s, when he was in the Navy submarine program, he had known Jackson a young congressman; more to the point, when Carter had lunch with his political mentor Senator Richard Russell shortly before Russell’s death in 1971, the Senator told him, “Keep your eye on Scoop. He’s too liberal on civil rights, but he’s a good man.” Carter did more than that. He invited Jackson to be the keynote speaker at the Georgia Democratic party’s first Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner after he was elected governor. One thing led to another, and Carter (although he now says he was already disgusted with Jackson’s exploitation of the busing issue back in 1972) eagerly accepted the chance to nominate Jackson: “I was honored to make a speech at all at a national convention.” But things have changed. “As I’ve learnedmore about [Jackson], I don’t feel so close to him anymore,” Carter says cryptically. The change of heart seems to date roughly from the fall of 1972, when Jimmy Carter decided he would like to try to become President himself.

What age and decline had not already done to the dreary block of East Market Street in Wilkes-Barre between Washington and Pennsylvania Avenue was taken care of by the destructive flood caused by Hurricane Agnes in 1972. Except for a refurbished City Hall, the once-grand buildings now sit mostly empty, waiting their turn before the wrecking ball of redevelopment. One storefront in the middle of the block enjoyed a brief revival for the month of April, however, when it was rented for $100, cleaned out and converted into the Luzerne County
Carter-for-President headquarters. There Tom Menino, who is a management specialist in the Massachusetts Department of Community Affairs and a crony of State Senator Joseph Timilty of Boston—an ardent Carter man—spent his vacation supervising a phone bank and other aspects of a nuts-and-bolts campaign effort. Most of the volunteers working with him were veterans of other primary states and were well experienced at selling their man to strangers.

“They laughed when they sent us here,” said Kristina Kiehl, because the local Democratic machine was strongly behind Jackson, and Pat Cadell’s surveys showed the northeastern corner of the state to be Carter’s weakest area after Philadelphia. But the people had turned out to be friendly and the turf fertile, so the task had become more fun than anticipated. The volunteers were intrigued to find that in this city many men—unemployed coal miners whose wives were now the breadwinners—answered daytime phone calls.

Kiehl, a South Carolinian now living in Connecticut, chuckled as she turned her face toward the telephone receiver and switched on the thickest drawl of her native land to offer a voter a ride to the polls. Southern accents were what Wilkes-Barreans expected of these mysterious Carter people, so why not give it to them if you had one?

There was no shortage of southern accents fifteen miles up the road in Scranton, where a troupe of eighteen Carter volunteers, less conventional in the recent annals of American politics than the young people in Wilkes-Barre, made their rounds during the week before the primary. They were the middle-aged “Georgians for Jimmy.” Frank and Frances Neel, grandparents of six and owners of an air-conditioning business in Thomasville, Georgia, the organizers of the group, had been assigned to Scranton. (The Neels had also worked in New Hampshire, the Florida panhandle, North Carolina, and Wisconsin.) They came expecting to find a million people in Scranton, but had to settle for a community of just over 100,000 instead. So much the better. They organized the city into sections, canvassed door-to-door every day but Sunday (”Jimmy won’t let us work on Sunday, except at shopping centers”), and covered an estimated 7,200 homes. The only expenses paid out of campaign funds were for rental cars, and with airfare, hotel bills, gas for the cars, and other incidentals, the Neels’ cost for the week would come to well over $500.

Why did they do it? Because, they explain, they are proud of their native son and his performance as governor. (They first met him in his 1970 campaign, and Mr. Neel later served on Carter’s Georgia Board of Industry and Trade.) They see him as a fine example of the South, in contrast to George Wallace, whom they consider “a hate man.” And as lifelong Democrats, they consider a Carter nomination an opportunity for themselves and southerners like them to return to the fold after voting for Richard Nixon in 1968 and 1972.

Jimmy Carter outpolled Scoop Jackson by 1,200 votes in Luzerne County (Wilkes-Barre) and by more than 7,000 in Lackawanna County (Scranton).


The Carter appeal took hold in Pennsylvania, and the strategy worked beyond even the candidate’s wildest expectations. Udall’s campaign failed to catch fire, and the Arizona congressman drew only 19 percent of the votes in the presidential preference primary. Jackson’s coalition of labor and the bosses fell completely apart. In a last-minute desperation measure, he abandoned some of his own convention delegates and instead threw his support behind uncommitted delegate candidates who seemed more electable and were willing to promise privately to vote for him at the convention. That just left the voters more confused; Jackson got only 25 percent of the preference vote and a handful of delegates.

Carter, on the other hand, drew 37 percent of the popular vote and won more than sixty delegates—a figure that was all the more astonishing because most of the Carter delegate candidates were political unknowns. The early filing date for the Pennsylvania primary had meant that Rick Hutcheson had to come through the state in January, before Carter gained prestige from his crucial victories in Iowa and New Hampshire, and select Carter delegate slates from lists of campaign contributors and student volunteers. Even some of the uncommitted delegates chosen for the convention—including Mayor Pete Flaherty’s wife and former Senator Joseph S. Clark—were more or less openly for Carter. And back in the crowds that Carter drew in many parts of Pennsylvania were clusters of Republicans who said they were “just waiting” for their chance to support him in November.

Pennsylvania primary day was April 27. When the returns were in, Scoop Jackson became the seventh Democratic contender to abandon this year’s race. And Hubert Humphrey, poised and ready to take one last fling at the presidency, thought again, choked back some tears, and got out of Jimmy Carter’s way.


”You know, he looks like an older version of John F. Kennedy.”
“Yeah, he does. I wonder if he has the same morals.”

—Exchange between two women who have just shaken hands with Jimmy Carter during his noontime walk through Market Square in Pittsburgh with Mayor Pete Flaherty.

The mention of President Kennedy and the obvious parallels—some accidental but some, surely, by design—are among the most striking features of any time on the road with Jimmy Carter. Yet even the Kennedy myth is no longer intact. It is not enough to compare this candidate to Kennedy, and a good many of Carter’s listeners and observers come away uncertain about what kind of man he really is, what kind of President he would be.

Carter says that he would appoint both blacls and women to his Cabinet and listen to them rather than treat them as tokens; he promises to have a high-level adviser on the needs and problems of the elderly. During his first week in office, he claims, he would grant a blanket pardon (but not full amnesty) to all Vietnam War draft evaders and deserters, permitting them to come home without fear of punishment. He says would establish a system of “zero-base budgeting” that would require every existing federal program to rejustify itself every year.

But there are also portents of battles between Congress and the executive more bitter even than those of recent years. Carter says he would demand that anybody running in November on a ticket with him—all Democratic congressional senatorial candidates—support his as yet unspecified proposals for a sweeping reorganization of the government, and then work with him to implement the program. “The Founding Fathers never intended that Congress would lead the country,” he says. “Only a President can do that.” If the remarks of his staff at unguarded moments and some of his own lapses in public are taken seriously, there emerges a dark side to Carter’s loving personality: he can come off as an angry, brittle, impatient man. Private criticism, which contrasts so sharply to the popular adulation he has been receiving, makes him pout and fume.

Who are Jimmy Carter’s heroes and models? Harry S Truman was his favorite President, he told me, and was so years before Truman came into vogue among Democrats and Republicans alike: “He was humble and courageous. . . He had vision about the future—in handling Europe, the United States, Israel, and General MacArthur. He was meticulously honest and truthful; I don’t believe he ever lied to the people ... and I’ve never had that feeling about any President since.” But then the Kennedy name comes up again, this time raised by Carter himself. “I can see in retrospect what President Kennedy meant to the deprived people in this country and abroad . . He never really did that much for them, but he made them think he cared.” Lyndon Johnson did far more for people, Carter observes, but he failed to reach them as Kennedy had.

What was Kennedy’s trick? Carter pauses and stares blankly. “I don’t know. Maybe there was no trick. Maybe he really cared about them.”