San Antonio Light President Jimmy Carter during his April visit to the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Congressman Henry. B. is Sen. Edward Kennedy in San Antonio. urement of comparative vantage was the notion of a nonbinding presidential preference poll, or beauty contest, on the May 3 ballot. By March, enough members of the State Democratic Executive Committee, from both camps, perceived an advantage in holding the primary. Some even thought it would be nice to give voters an opportunity to determine their own fates, at least by wishful thinking. The preference poll was okayed. But the jockeying didn’t stop. The see-saw race between Carter and Kennedy sawed a lot toward Carter in late March/early April. Texas liberals, predominantly Kennedy or uncommitted, perceived an impending rout in Texas and made what they believed a tactical, pre-emptive effort to cancel the beauty contest. Among other things, the liberals, as well as Harry Hubbard of the Texas AFL-CIO, were worried that something called an “anti-Kennedy” vote would materialize among conservative Democrats, flooding the polling booths. Theoretically, this would have hurt state liberals like Jim Hightower, Carlos Truan, Babe Schwartz and others in tough races. The scuttling attempt was too late and too disunited to succeed, but it might as well have. Serious damage was done to the usefulness of the preference poll. Granted, it was nonbinding, leaving actual delegate selection at the precinct caucuses, but it had great symbolic potential. The distaste, then, of the party leaders for their own idea helped drop the Texas primary very low in the priorities of both the Carter and Kennedy campaigns, neither of which wanted to waste precious resources on something nobody cared about anyway. But the George Bush rally, Carter’s continuing drop in popularity, and the Kennedy victories, suddenly, in New York and Pennsylvania, again altered the scenario. There really was a Democratic fight, enough to attract voters; and there really was a Republican battle, enough to keep Republicans in their own ranks and maybe induce a few conservative Democrats to vote GOP as well which is what finally happened. Bush became the draw Connally wasn’t. Kennedy, in particular, stood to gain a lot from the change in fortunes, and might have used the preference poll as a means of beating Carter in presumed Carter country. Delegates or no, such an upset would’ve caught the media attention and given “momentum” to the Kennedy campaign. But it was too late. Texas was written off to Carter. “We hadn’t spent a whole lot of time on the primary,” said Bill Carrick, Kennedy campaign director in Texas. “There were so many other primaries . . . if you don’t have the resources to compete, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. There’s a whole lot of antagonism against Carter we might’ve picked up but it would’ve cost a lot of money.” Kennedy spent two days and about $50,000 on Texas. Carter spent about $100,000 and came here once, to visit Brooke Army Medical Center. In the end, Carter got 56 percent of the popular cent, mostly from South Texas, while uncommitted \(apparently ident was vulnerable. Having pretty much ignored the potential of the preference 6 MAY 23, 1980
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