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Nation: Tandem Trouble

2 minute read

Carter tries to delay a primary

Jimmy Carter’s campaign strategists live with at least one recurring nightmare: the President gets clobbered by a write-in vote for Edward Kennedy in New Hampshire’s opening Democratic primary next Feb. 26, and then on the following Tuesday, March 4, he loses badly in Massachusetts to some popular Bay State Democrat serving as a stand-in for Kennedy. Since such a pair of defeats is no way to start a re-election campaign, the Carter forces have fought desperately to persuade Democratic Party officials in Massachusetts to delay their primary until April 15.

The attack has been two-pronged:

1) Thomas McGee, speaker of the Massachusetts house, has quietly supported a Carter move to get the state legislature to postpone the primary day, and 2) John White, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, has warned the state’s Democrats that the March 4 date violates a D.N.C. rule requiring all state Democratic organizations to take “positive steps” to set their primary elections between March 11 and June 11. If they do not do so, contends White, the delegates chosen by any earlier election could possibly be denied seats at the Democratic National Convention next summer in New York City. (Democratic officials in New Hampshire have apparently complied technically with the rules by introducing a bill in the legislature to change that state’s primary date, but they have no decisive influence in the Republican-dominated legislature, and actually like the first-in-the-nation status.) One of those two challenges seemed to collapse last week. Realizing that he did not have the votes to approve a postponement, Speaker McGee said he does not even want the delaying bill brought to the floor of the house for consideration.

The state Democratic chairman, Chester Atkins, also refused to back the bill. At the same time, Democratic Senator Paul Tsongas said he may run in the primary as part of a “hold-the-delegates-for-Kennedy operation.”

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