Jimmy Carter's Big Breakthrough
(TIME, May 10, 1976) -- The 1976 script called for the longest, most grueling run of Democratic primaries and caucuses in U.S. history. In an effort to make the selection system more open, the Democrats had rewritten their ground rules for campaigning and Congress drastically tightened the laws on financing. Nearly a dozen serious candidates, some household names and others almost unknown, had formally entered the fray. On the sidelines hovered two of the party's most formidable figures. According to all the conventional wisdom, the process was going to be a marathon shambles, producing nearly five months of furious activity but probably settling nothing.
Suddenly, only third of the way through the obstacle course, the race was all but over. Starting out 17 months ago with no national political base, name recognition or backing from powerful interest groups, onetime Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter had carved out on his own a broad constituency of small-town and rural voters, blue-collar ethnics, white-collar suburbanites, inner-city blacks. Week after week, winning primaries in the North, South and Midwest, he steadily thinned the ranks of his rivals. Last week by triumphing decisively and against formidable odds in Pennsylvania's pivotal primary, he all but crushed his remaining opposition, including Democratic Senior Statesman Hubert Humphrey.
The votes had hardly been counted when James Earl Carter Jr., one of the most phenomenal politicians to rise on the American political scene in this century, was talking about what kind of a President he would be. In an interview last week, he mused to TIME Correspondent Dean E. Fischer: "Most of my attitude toward Government is very aggressive. I wouldn't be a quiescent or a timid President."
Then he talked about his heroes. "My favorite modern President is Harry Truman. He exemplified the kind of Administration I would like to have." Carter said that he admired Truman's honesty, vision in foreign policy and "closeness with the American people." He also had a high regard for John Kennedy as a "much more inspirational President" than Truman, and for Lyndon Johnson's deep concern for the poor and the weak and his skill in pushing legislation through Congress. He spoke of Winston Churchill as the pre-eminent leader of our time, of Charles de Gaulle as uniquely expressing "the ideals and hopes and pride of the French," and of Mohandas Gandhi as the embodiment of "quiet courage."
Obviously, no mortal can hope to exhibit all of these qualities, though some of Carter's detractors wonder whether he knows that. No matter; in the euphoria of last week, most things must have seemed possible to Jimmy Carter, as he rode the crest of his campaign for presidency. So certain was he, with good reason, of winning the Democratic nomination at Madison Square Garden in July that he began making a list of whom he might choose as a running mate. He says that his most important considerations are to pick someone who is qualified to step up as President if necessary, a person "compatible with me on basic issues and general philosophy" and offering "some sort of geographical or other balance on the ticket." According to insiders at the Democratic national Committee, Carter's list includes two liberal U.S. Senators: Minnesota's Walter F. Mondale, and Illinois's Adlai E. Stevenson. Choosing either would strengthen Carter with liberals and party hierarchs, the two groups that have remained most aloof from him.
But they are not likely to do so much longer. Like other Democrats, liberals and party leaders most want a winner, which Carter persuasively showed himself to be last week. His twelve- point margin in Pennsylvania proved conclusively that he could topple tough opposition in a big Northern industrial state. In Texas, his come-from-behind victory over Senator Lloyd M. Bentsen showed that not even a popular favorite son could slow the Carter bandwagon. The overwhelming successes -- he has won eight of the first ten primaries -- stunned old-line political leaders.
His victories all but eliminated the other Democratic candidates. He had long ago knocked out George Wallace, drubbing him in Florida and North Carolina. Henry Jackson was humiliated in Pennsylvania, where he had expected to sweep to victory with heavy union and political-machine support. At week's end he decided to drop out of the race. "I will remain a candidate and I do not intend to endorse any other candidate at this time," said Scoop to a group of supporters. "I am a realist. Simply stated, we are out of money." Asked to assess Carter's chances for the nomination, Jackson declared frankly: "He is an open-field runner at this time."
Morris Udall, the primaries' perpetual runner-up, pushed on with characteristic good humor, but nobody took his candidacy very seriously. Latecomers Frank Church and Jerry Brown were still in the running, but some political analysts speculated that Brown at best was running for Vice President and Church perhaps for Secretary of State.
That left only Hubert Humphrey. After Pennsylvania, his telephones almost jangled off the hook as old friend begged him to step out of the sidelines and plunge into active campaigning. They pleaded that only he could stop Carter, whom many organization Democrats mistrust as an unknown and untested outsider. Time and again Humphrey met with longtime supporters and then pondered his decision one night.
Next day, looking exhausted, he flabbergasted friends by announcing that he had decided to stay out, but would still hold himself available in the "unlikely" event of a convention deadlock. The old (64) warrior explained that he lacked the money and organization to mount his fourth campaign for the White House. Nor did he relish the possibility of another defeat.
Thus, the field was left to Jimmy Carter. Barring some unforeseen twist, he will be the Democrats' 1976 nominee. There was, at first, no stampede among party leaders to board his bandwagon. New Jersey Governor Brendan T. Byrne called on all 37 fellow Democratic Governors to unify the party by getting behind Carter, but initially drew no response. Still, no one seriously thought that Carter could be stopped.
Said a top member of the Democratic national Committee: "Carter's the winner. His only problem will be maintaining interest in his campaign through the rest of the primaries." Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley call any lingering thoughts of a brokered convention "hogwash." President Ford, who was badly set back in Texas, agreed: "The only way I can see that they could stop him now is to have smoke-filled room, brokered convention, and I think the public would object to that."
Ford was surprised by the events. He had long predicted that the Democratic nominee would be Humphrey and was obviously disappointed when he bowed out. It would have been easier to fight familiar old Hubert and his familiar liberal ideas before an electorate that has grown weary and suspicious of still more Government programs. A strong economy, highly probable in the third and fourth quarters, would have helped Ford more against Humphrey than it may against Carter. The White House was plainly scared of his winning appeal as an outsider crusading against the old pols and summoning Americans to believe in the nation's basic strength and decency. Ford has not devised a strategy for running against Carter, except to stress his own "proven record" against the Georgian's comparative inexperience. Said the President: "Well, we don't really know what Jimmy Carter stands for."
There was still the possibility that Carter might make a major gaffe that would cost him the nomination. Said he: "It would be unlikely for me to be stopped unless I make a mistake." Indeed, Carter -- much like George McGovern in 1972 -- has burst onto the national scene so quickly that he has not yet undergone many political stress tests. With the single exception of his "ethnic purity" remark, from which he recovered quickly, he has escaped the blunders that have buried candidates in the past. But if he should stumble, many of the party's elders -- whose first choice Carter clearly is not -- will push Humphrey again.
Taking nothing for granted, Carter viewed his big victories in Pennsylvania and Texas as only the completion of the first phase of his campaign. Phase Two will involve consolidating and expanding his support by campaigning in all of the remaining contests -- 28 primaries and caucuses. His opponents are not active in many primary states, and they will have a tough time raising campaign money.
Carter may not win them all, of course. This week Alabama is expected loyally to hand Governor George Wallace most of its 35 delegates. Next week, in Nebraska, Carter faces Church, who is concentrating much of his money and personal campaigning on the state in hopes of scoring an upset. In Maryland, where Carter will take on Brown on May 18, he leads, but Brown, who declared his candidacy only two months ago, received a tumultuous welcome during his first campaign foray to the state last week. His organization had planned for about 500 supporters at a reception at the Baltimore Hilton; 2,500 showed up. Said Brown, whose background as a Jesuit seminarian makes him Carter's equal in quoting Scripture: "It has been written that the first shall be last and the last shall be first."
Carter's muscle was amply displayed last Saturday in the Texas primary. Favorite Son Lloyd Bentsen had spent years setting up a statewide political organization, and his delegate slates included many of Texas' best known Democrats. Carter spent only few days in the state, and offered this blunt message: "The only choice is between one who can be President and one who wants to broker or horse trade delegates." In the end , Carter crushed Bentsen, winning 93 of the 98 delegate contests.
His margin in Texas was obviously widened by his victory four days earlier in Pennsylvania. Though many analysts had thought that Carter's love-and-compassion theme would not go over well in the raucous atmosphere of steel-and-coal towns, he captured 65 of 67 Pennsylvania counties. He lost only in Philadelphia, which Mayor Frank L. Rizzo's machine carried for Jackson, and in Philadelphia's liberal suburban Montgomery County, which went to Udall. Carter was particularly delighted that he carried Gettysburg, site of the bloodiest battle of the Civil War. And he got off one of his few campaign quips: "We ought to tell the Georgians that we finally won in Gettysburg."
In all, he carried 37% of the Pennsylvania vote to Jackson's 25%, Udall's 19% and a mere 11% for George Wallace. Though Jackson had predicted that regardless of how the popular vote went, he would win the largest share of the delegates, Carter got 64 delegates v. only 19 for Scoop, who finished not only behind Uncommitted (46) but also behind Udall (22).
Carter's strength in the heavily unionized western Pennsylvania steel-mill country -- in the face of all-out opposition from union and party leaders -- was startling. Among union members, he beat Jackson 36% to 27% according to the New York Times/CBS News poll. Moaned Ernie Rewolinski of Harrisburg, a union leader who ran as an uncommitted delegate: "The Carter people knocked me right off. People are more sophisticated than they used to be. They headed straight for the presidential candidate."
Indeed, labor's efforts on behalf of Jackson were uncommonly inept. While praising him, many labor leaders made clear that their hearts were really with Humphrey. Voters were turned off by their perception of Jackson as a surrogate for Humphrey, as well as by Jackson's dull, plodding campaign and his shrill and far-fetched effort to blame Carter for Pennsylvania's high unemployment rate. Scoop may have been hurt by his identity with the labor-political establishment. Rizzo's support was a mixed blessing because the mayor is unpopular in much of the state. Neither the faction-ridden state party nor the slow- starting labor machine was able to mount effective support for Jackson.
Yet Carter won chiefly by his own skillful campaigning. He spent far more time (eleven days) in Pennsylvania than he had in New York and Massachusetts, two states where he had finished a dismal fourth. He benefitted from a swelling corps of volunteers, enthusiasts slightly older than but nonetheless reminiscent of the "Children's Crusade" of the 1968 campaign of Eugene McCarthy. They swarmed in from Florida, Illinois, New Hampshire and other states where Carter has campaigned, and, of course, from Georgia. In Pennsylvania, they canvassed by telephone, passed out campaign pamphlets and, most important, worked the polls on primary day, explaining the complicated ballot and pointing out the Carter delegates to voters. A group of about 50 volunteers, assigned to the Pittsburgh area, slept on rented cots set up in a funeral parlor that had gone out of business.
The Southerner's supposed "ethnic purity" gaffe may actually have helped him: the controversy over the remark kept Carter on front pages and on television news programs for days. His money- starved opponents could not compete with Carter in paid advertising. None of the candidates has collected matching funds since the Federal Election Commission temporarily went out of business. But Carter, since his Wisconsin primary victory, has found it easier to raise money than either Jackson or Udall, both of whom have been dogged by "loser" images. Additionally, Carter has an efficient fund-raising operation, led by Alabama Lawyer Morris Dees, the former McGovern finance director whose direct- mail operations reached hundreds of thousands of contributors to previous Democratic campaigns. Since the federal fund cutoff on March 23, Carter contributions have topped $600,000, far more than the amounts raised by Jackson and Udall.
After the Pennsylvania primary, the TIME-Yankelovich poll showed that Carter had achieved a new status in the minds of voters; he is no longer considered just one of the pack but a man who, at least for the moment, has a fair chance of beating Ford. Thus people are beginning to examine him even more closely and critically. They may be familiar with his basic biography: the rearing in rural Plains, Ga.; education at Annapolis (where he ranked 59th in a class of 809); his brief career in the Navy (in which he served under his idol, Admiral Hyman Rickover); success as a peanut farmer and wholesaler; his rise as a state politician and now, at 51, a national figure. There also seems to be something unknowable about him, an inner man that has not been -- and may never be -- revealed.
That mystery in Carter may be a small part of the answer to a large question that perplexes so many Americans, including a good many politicians and professional politician watchers who are unaccustomed to perplexity in such matters: What is the magic, the secret, the explanation, of Carter's astonishing success with the electorate so far? Certainly there is the smile, the courtly Southern charm, the flattering intensity with which he talks -- and listens -- to individuals. There is his reassuring sense of himself, his evident intelligence, his successful projection of worthy goals beyond his own private ambitions. Then, of course, he lacks the scars of national politics; he seems free of entanglements with party bosses, special interests and power blocs. His is a fresh political face at a time when there seems much weariness with familiar ones.
Such obvious elements do not, however, satisfy the perplexed, who feel there must be more to Carter's public chemistry. Undoubtedly there is. Part of it may be his quietness. Carter's words on paper sometimes can seem banal or even inflammatory; the spoken tone is appealing. Many of the young seem drawn to him partly because, unlike so many of their elders, he does not bellow at them. All sorts of other Americans find parts of Jimmy Carter they seem able to identify with, and he promotes his man-of-many-parts image assiduously. And Carter wears his hard-won successes easily, without letting his pride slip into an unseemly boastfulness.
On a deeper level, Carter's call for a moral revival of sorts seems to have struck home in the American psyche, vintage 1976. Battered by the Vietnam War, Watergate, scandals and abuses in high places, many Americans clearly welcome Carter's confidence in them and the worth of their country, and his soft- spoken promise to restore a moral purpose to national life. If the economy continues to improve and no foreign scares intervene, this spiritual issue could transcend all others this year.
Whatever the alchemy at work, Carter fascinates some people and bewilders others, arousing both great confidence and, particularly among some Northern liberals, deep skepticism. Most politicians, journalists and others who see him close up come away convinced that he has a first-class mind. Some are also repelled by the cold self-assurance.
Michael Novak, a Catholic theologian and perceptive analyst of U.S. politics, wrote recently in the Washington Post: "The source of discomfort is that they [Northerners] do not know at first hand the pressures that shaped him, his inner demons and his inner angels. They can't confidently imagine scenarios of various pressures upon him and predict how he will act. He is, from his point of view, and outsider breaking in on their world. But they are, from their point of view, outsiders who can't quite understand what makes him tick."
Nothing arouses more fascination, suspicion and questions than Carter's deep-seated convictions. He contends that he does not inject into his campaigning. But the two are inescapably intertwined, producing a blend of William Jennings Bryan's religious fervor and Woodrow Wilson's moral idealism.
The U.S. has perhaps 40 million Protestant Evangelicals, both black and white, and they are the fastest growing element in American Christianity. They also constitute a natural constituency for Carter, responding enthusiastically to his frequent use of words and phrases that identify him as one of them: love, brotherhood, decency, purity, compassion. His preaching of traditional moral values also appeals to many others, notably blue-collar Catholic "ethnics." Typically, a black clergyman in Philadelphia praised him as a man "with a Bible in one hand and a ballot box in the other."
To skeptics, Carter's language often sounds like a pious facade. That, decidedly, is not the case. To Carter, his religion has always been a central and natural part of his life -- "like breathing," as he says. Like many Southerners, he finds no contradiction in mixing an earthy appreciation of the good, secular life with the harder demands of Evangelicalism. But while religion has always been an integral part of his makeup, he dates his life as a spiritually reborn Christian only from 1967.
As Carter and his sister, Evangelist Ruth Carter Stapleton, tell the story, he was upset over losing his first for Governor and was questioning his personal values and goals. In the course of his search for meaning, he took a long walk with his sister in the pine woods near his 200-acre peanut farm. Recalls Carter: "Ruth asked me if I would give up anything for Christ, if I would give up my life and my possessions -- everything. I said I would. Then she asked if I would be willing to give up politics. I though a long time and had to admit that I would not." His sister warned him that until he could, he would be plagued with self- doubts. Stapleton says that Carter cried during the conversation, but he has no such recollection. In any event, the experience led directly to his being "born again." [In the third chapter of John's Gospel, Jesus tells the Pharisee Nicodemus that only those who are spiritually "born again" will enter the kingdom of God. The passage -- and the phrase -- are favorites of Evangelical Protestants; their faith emphasizes the personal experience of turning to Christ.] Says he: "I established a more intimate relationship with Christ. I developed a deeper sense of inner peace."
Thereafter, he traveled to other parts of Georgia and to Pennsylvania and Massachusetts "to witness among people who don't know about Christ." To questioners, he says that in politics he claims no "special relationship" with God. Says Carter: "I don't pray to God to let me win an election, I pray to ask God to let me do the right thing." As Governor, he prayed often, on his knees, in the seclusion of a small private room next to his office.
Carter is not a strict Evangelical. When he was Governor, he outraged some Southern Baptist clergymen by calling Georgia's ban on Sunday liquor sales hypocritical because many people patronized bootleggers on the Sabbath. One of his first acts was to end the pompous religious service that his predecessor as Governor, Lester Maddox, held in the state house every morning. Carter thought that the service was pointless.
The prime source of his belief is the Bible, but he reads it somewhat critically. Says he: "I find it difficult to question Holy Scripture, but I admit that I do have trouble with Paul sometimes, especially when he says that a woman's place is with her husband, and that she should keep quiet and cover her head in church. I just can't go along with him on that." Carter also has read deeply from the works of Reinhold Niebuhr, Karl Barth, Paul Tillich, and Soren Kierkegaard and quotes from them. In particular, he is fond of this sentence from Niebuhr: "The sad duty of politics is to establish justice in a sinful world."
Some critics suggest that if he were elected, Carter's religious life might intrude on his acts as President; the objection echoes the fears that were raised about John F. Kennedy's Catholicism. Like Kennedy, Carter vows a strict separation of church and state, and denies that there is any conflict between the two. Says he: "The Bible says, `Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's.' It doesn't say you have to live two lives. It doesn't say you have to be two people." On the contrary, he maintains that his religious convictions "will make me a better President.'
Some detractors regard Carter's ambition as exceeding even the generous quota to be expected of any presidential candidate. In Carter's case, there is an almost total humorlessness and an implacable quality to the pursuit of all his goals. Says a Georgia government official who knows him well: "He's got rock- hard, iron-hard confidence. He's like twisted steel cable inside." Trying to reassure an audience in Green Bay, Wis., that he was not dangerously ambitious, Carter pointed out that he had not always wanted to be President. Said he, in all seriousness: "When I was at Annapolis, the only thing I wanted to be was Chief of Naval Operations." Later, as a junior officer aboard the submarine Pomfret, he doggedly refused to be kept from his duties by seasickness. Recalls Warren Colegrove, who was the ship's engineering officer: "He'd take his [vomit] bucket with him to the bridge. He was a gutsy guy."
But the inner qualities that give rise to his driving ambition, iron will and unmovable adherence to moral principles are also the source of what he admits is a major failing: his reluctance to compromise. His rigidity caused him to repeated trouble with the Georgia legislature. In 1974, while pressuring the legislators to pass a consumer protection bill, he scornfully described them as the worst in the state's history. Outraged, they stopped work for several days and bitterly complained until Carter retreated from his harsh words. But he stopped short of an apology. Indeed, Carter's refusal to yield on some points nearly caused the defeat of his major accomplishment as Governor -- streamlining the state government by reducing the number of agencies from about 300 to 22. Recalls a top Georgia politician: "He couldn't pass any of his reorganization bill. We had to get it passed for him -- or about 60% of it anyway." More recently, Carter -- who admits to being "pretty rigid" -- showed his stubborn streak by not backing off from his offensive language in the "ethnic purity" flap until he was clearly in danger of losing much of his black support.
Like most politicians, Carter is a professional collector of people. At one time or another, he has described as "good friends of mine" such retiring folks as Edward Kennedy, Hubert Humphrey, Golda Meir, Henry Kissinger, Bob Dylan and Burt Reynolds. There is probably no more bizarre relationship in American politics than the one that exists between him and Hunter Thompson, author of Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail 1972 and other boozy, spaced-out analyses of the American body politic. Thompson met Carter in 1974 and a University of Georgia Law Day ceremony, where Carter gave an off-the-cuff speech. So impressed was Thompson by the speech that he got a tape recording of it, which he often plays at odd hours of the night.
In that address, Carter said in part: "One of the sources for my understanding about the proper application of criminal justice and the system of equity is from reading Reinhold Niebuhr -- The other source of my understanding about what's right and wrong in this society is from a friend of mine, a poet named Bob Dylan. After listening to his records...I've learned to appreciate the dynamism of change in a modern society." Carter went on to scold the lawyers for not caring more about the legal and moral rights of society's underdogs. He praised Martin Luther King Jr., "who was perhaps despised by many in this room because he shook up our social structure...and demanded simply that black citizens be treated the same as white citizens." Added Carter: "As a farmer, I'm not qualified to assess the characteristics of the 9,100 inmates in the Georgia prisons, 50% of whom ought not to be there. They ought to be on probation or under some other supervision...I don't know, it may be that poor people are the only ones who commit crimes, but I do know that they are the only ones who serve prison sentences."
Though he speaks almost mystically of the "intense friendships" that he has formed with Americans almost everywhere, Carter has few real cronies, and he keeps even them at arm's length. He shares his most intimate thought and feelings with only one person -- his wife Rosalynn. Says Gerald Rafshoon, an Atlanta friend who handles Carter's campaign advertising: "You don't get that close to Jimmy because he retreats. His wife Rosalynn is his best friend." With her he is unabashedly affectionate, holding her hand at almost every opportunity. Says a friend: "You can tell they were high-school sweethearts."
Nonetheless, Carter judiciously uses the advice of old campaign associates. Among them: Campaign Manager Jordan, Press Secretary Jody Powell, Adman Rafshoon, Campaign Treasurer R.J. Lipshutz and Charles Kirbo, a top Atlanta lawyer. With Carter three years ago, they drew up what he calls his "careful, detailed, meticulous" plan to win the presidency. They began by methodically researching every presidential election since World War II and reading almost every major book about U.S. Presidents and campaigning. Carter studied voting trends and population patterns in all 435 congressional districts. The plan called for entering all of the primaries and caucuses on the assumption that he could create enough momentum in the early contests to breeze through the later ones. It was an amazingly accurate forecast of what indeed happened.
Associates find Carter to be a demanding boss but one who readily delegates authority. Says Rafshoon: "He doesn't get involved in details or try to do your work for you. He expects the best possible work; if he doesn't get it, he gets rid of you." Rarely does Carter lose his temper. When something goes wrong, says Rafshoon, "he becomes cold and methodical."
Carter always has campaigned as something of a loner. Other candidates have large entourages of hirelings and hangers-on. Not Carter. To an astonishing degree, he is conducting a one-man campaign. On a recent trip, his official party consisted of four low-level aides (and ten reporters).
As a campaigner, he comes across as intelligent, quick and deeply informed, with a good grasp of most issues, though he is weakest on foreign policy. "I've got a lot to learn, and I know it," he repeats to groups of supporters, "but I think I am able to learn from good friends like you." His interests range far beyond politics. He is well read; his favorite authors include James Agee, William Faulkner and Dylan Thomas, though most recently Carter has concentrated on politics, philosophy, history, foreign affairs, taxation policy and the like. His tastes in music range from Dmitri Shostakovich to Dylan. While politicking, his energy and concentration are legendary. Campaigning recently in Mississippi, he shook the hand of a department-store mannequin. He recovered gracefully by quipping to an aide: "Better give her a brochure too."
Carter's single-mindedness and occasional self-righteousness raise questions about what he might be like as President. If he failed to get his own way, how would he react? Could he handle the give-and-take of diplomatic negotiations? Would he be able to compromise with Congress? Would he rather, in his own words, "go down in flames" than modify his own convictions? If he were as unbending as he professes to be, his disillusionment and frustration in the White House could be acute. Woodrow Wilson defied the Senate in his zealous crusade for the League of Nations; ultimately, he was destroyed by the relentless pursuit of his dream.
Reports TIME Correspondent Stanley Cloud, who has covered the Carter campaign since before the New Hampshire primary:
"As President, Carter would probably be far more liberal than many people now suspect. His appointments would often be surprising. He might retain, at least for a transitional period, a few key people in the current Administration. For example, he has a high regard for fellow Southerner David Mathews, the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare. But two present Cabinet members would be certain to go: Agriculture's Earl Butz and State's Henry Kissinger. He would disappoint many fervent backers who expect some patronage for their troubles. (Almost always as Governor, he reached outside the circle of his close supporters to fill important state posts.)
Though he is wary of the press, he would probably have more press conferences than any recent President. His dealings with Congress almost certainly would be stormy. For one thing, his plan to streamline the Federal Government, much as he reorganized Georgia's state government, could involve him in a bloody battle with Congress and the bureaucrats. But to persuade the Senators and Representatives to end their opposition to reorganization and his other pet projects, he would put pressure on them by making frequent -- and perhaps very effective -- appeals to the voters."
On defense and foreign policy, he has promised to reduce- -on a phased basis -- much of the American military presence overseas. He would pull American troops out of Korea in five to seven years. He would begin to reduce, though not eliminate, the U.S. military commitment in Europe. He would seek closer relations with Third World countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, as well as with traditional allies in Europe and Japan. Detente with the Soviets probably would continue, but with demands for them to make more concessions to the U.S. He thinks the U.S. defense budget could be cut by about $7 billion a year, chiefly through eliminating bureaucratic waste and some expensive weapons systems, such as the B-1 bomber. But, because he believes that the U.S. fleet is becoming inferior to Russia's, he would accelerate naval shipbuilding, including the nuclear, missile- firing Trident submarine.
On the U.S. economy, Carter would give highest priority to reducing unemployment, primarily by stressing job creation in private business rather than huge public employment programs. But, if all else failed, Government would be the employer of last resort (he stresses the last). His goals are a 4% rate for both unemployment and inflation and a balanced budget by 1979. To expand the economy, he advocates more stimulative fiscal policies and speedier growth in the money supply. At the same time, he would ask for stand-by authority to impose wage and price controls on key industries if inflation threatened to get out of hand. To provide more effective planning of the national economy, Carter wants budgeting handled on a three-year basis. As he did in Georgia, he would put almost every Government program on a temporary basis, and every year or two require bureaucrats to justify the need for them.
Carter has promised an overhaul of U.S. income taxes, but has not disclosed details. It probably would involve eliminating most deductions and tax shelters and lowering the tax rates. This would tend to increase taxes for people with many deductions or sheltered income but lower them for everyone else. He proposes a nationwide health plan that would place federal controls over doctors' fees and hospital charges and provide mandatory health insurance for every American, financed from general tax revenues and a payroll tax shared by workers and employers. He would have the Federal Government pay more of the costs of welfare but not take it over entirely. He supports registering all handguns, reducing penalties for the use of marijuana and passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.
It is a long, long time from May to November, and Carter could be tripped up by any one of many imponderables -- a slip of the tongue, an unpopular stand on an issue or, of course, the voters' rejection of him. But these are the hazards of the trade that he long ago took up.
In 1962, when he was thinking of running for the Georgia senate, he consulted with a Baptist minister who was visiting Carter's mother. As Carter recalls the incident: "The pastor strongly advised me not to go into such a discredited profession. We had a rather heated argument, and he finally asked, `If you want to be of service to other people, why don't you go into the ministry or into some honorable special service work?'" Replied Carter: "How would you like to be the pastor in a church with 80,000 members?" These days, Jimmy Carter is thinking in terms of heading a congregation with 215 million members.
Startling Surge for Carter
If the presidential election were held now, Jimmy Carter would defeat Gerald Ford by 48% to 38% of the vote. Just seven weeks ago, after the Florida primary, Ford would have beaten Carter, 46% to 38%. This extraordinary shift in voter sentiment was a stunning measure of how far the Georgian had come by last week, just after his Pennsylvania victory.
By 50% to 27%, moreover, U.S. voters want to see a Demcorat elected as the next President, provided both candidates are of equal stature and competence. Voters -- Republicans, Democrats and Independents -- consider Carter the strongest possible Democratic candidate: 48% see Carter that way, v. 34% for Humphrey and 3% for Jackson. At the same time, Americans split evenly, 41% to 41%, with 19% uncertain, on whether the Democrat or the Republican will win in November.
These are the principal findings of a poll conducted for TIME last week by Yankelovich, Skelly and White, Inc., the opinion-research firm. The results were gathered in telephone interviews with a representative, national sample of 1,011 registered voters in the two days immediately following the Pennsylvania primary. Most of the interviews were taken before Humphrey announced he would not actively campaign and all of them before Jackson dropped out, so that, if anything, the poll may underestimate Carter's strengths.
The poll also indicated that there is still some vulnerability in Carter's position. Even with Pennsylvania behind him, Carter was the choice of a minority of his own party (39%, v. 59% for some other candidate). If they were voting on the basis of economic, defense and foreign policy issues alone, more Democrats would prefer Humphrey over Carter.
Still, the pace of Carter's ascendancy has been breathtaking. Before the New Hampshire primary, he was unknown to 55% of the electorate; now he is known to 82% and viewed as acceptable by 59%. Based on answers from the people who were polled, the Carter phenomenon seems the result of two factors: 1) the hunger for a Democratic candidate who can win in November and 2) the search for an indefinable quality of moral leadership at a time when 61% of the respondents feel something is morally wrong in the nation. That search for moral leadership promises to be Carter's strongest asset agaisnt Ford. Of those voters who feel something is morally wrong in the nation, 54% said they would vote for Carter in November, while 31% would support Ford. Another factor in Carter's favor is the extraordinary attention voters are paying this year to "the man" rather than the issues.
Two potential stumbling blocks for Carter -- issues that seemed likely to make voters uneasy -- have not materialized. Despite the brief uproar over his "ethnic purity" remarks, a strong 62% of the voters regard him as a fair person on racial issues. And 50% of the voters do not consider Carter's intense religious convictions a factor in the election; 32% believe such views are an asset; only 8% are worried by them.
On the Republican side, Gerald Ford has steadily improved his position against Ronald Reagan. Among Republicans and Independents, Ford is now the choice of 62%, v. 25% for Reagan. Seven weeks ago, it was Ford 56%, Reagan 28%. Among all voters, confidence in Ford's handling of two basic policy issues is reasonably strong. Almost three out of four voice some or a lot of confidence in his management of the economy and inflation. Two out of three express some or a lot of confidence in his conduct of foreign affairs. At the same time, the Reagan campaign has been hurting Ford by generating concern about U.S. military power compared with Russia's. One out of two voters are worried about the state of U.S. military power and consider it a major issue.
With Carter running strong on "moral leadership" and Reagan chipping away at Ford on the defense issue, the President becomes increasingly dependent on an improved economy as his greatest strength. But while the economy is gaining, voters perceive the rate of progress as slowing. The share of people who say they feel economic stress -- worry about paying off bills or losing jobs -- dropped from a high of 36% last June to 30% in October; since then, the index has shown no real improvement. Last week it stood at 29%.
On the brighter side, last October little more than one- third of the voters said that things were going well in the country. Now, for the first time since the TIME-Yankelovich polls started two years ago, more than half the people (53%) share that belief. That may work in Ford's favor. Among those who share this optimism, 49% would vote for him and only 39% for Carter.
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