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Indecision 76

Cool returns from this year’s first presidential heat; or, Sioux City won’t get fooled again

Democratic Presidential candidates Senator Birch Bayh, Jimmy Carter, Fred R. Harris, Governor Milton Shapp

Democratic Presidential candidates Senator Birch Bayh, Former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter, former senator Fred R. Harris, Pennsylvania Governor Milton Shapp during the Iowa Democratic Caucus in Des Moines, Iowa, on January 11th, 1976.

NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty

A little old Jewish man wearing cowboy boots stood in the lobby of the Sioux City, Iowa, Stockyards. He had gray stubble on his chin, a bit of lunch on his shirt, and the rumor was he’d made a million buying and selling beef on the hoof. He stood in front of the large blackboard which reported the thousands of steers, feeder cattle, hogs and sheep that passed through the stockyard that day.

He looked down the hall toward the entrance, brightened, saw the girl was coming. She was smiling, shaking hands. “Teeth just like her uncle,” the old man thought. “And the nose, too. Just like her uncle.”

She reached out to shake his hand. “Hi, I’m Maria Shriver.”

“I’m Benny Weiker,” said the little old man with a heavy accent. “I loved your uncle Jack.”

“Yes, well, I hope you’re supporting us this year …”

“Oh, of course, of course. I always back the Democrats, especially the Kennedys. It was Roosevelt who brought me over in 1940 …”

“That’s very nice,” she said, trying to move away.

“I was in Dachau. You heard of Dachau? For 33 weeks, I was in Dachau …”

“Oh how …”

“… and then they let me go because I was a lieutenant in World War I. They let us go 250 at a time, alphabetical order, so I was near the last. I lost 80 pounds in 33 weeks.”

The girl was pulling away now, to shake more hands. He reached after her. “I always loved your family,” he said.

In five days, on January 19th, the presidential campaign of 1976 would officially open with an election of sorts in Iowa. Democrats and Republicans throughout the state would go to precinct meetings in their neighborhoods, where they would select delegates to county conventions to be held in March, where they would select delegates to district conventions in April, where they would select delegates to the state convention in May, where they would select delegates to the national convention in July, where they would select a presidential nominee.

It was politics thrice removed at best, but it would be the first time in 1976 that warm bodies actually made their views known. And so Maria Shriver, a politician thrice removed, found herself shaking hands in the Sioux City Stockyards with the Dachau Cowboy.

Sioux City is considered to be so typical of the Midwest that the federal government routinely brings foreign dignitaries to town to show them how Middle America lives. It is located on the northwest edge of Iowa, just across the Missouri River from Nebraska and just to the south of South Dakota. The natives call it Siouxland, and the population hasn’t increased or decreased dramatically in a long time.

Farmers and ranchers come from hundreds of miles around to sell their grain and cattle and hogs in Sioux City. The processing of food is the major business in town and the workers live in modest homes in quiet neighborhoods. There isn’t much unemployment. The most violent local occurrence seems to be the weather, which is totally ridiculous – the wind whips down from the north in winter and routinely drives the temperature below zero; in summer, the sun bakes the prairie and drives the temperature above 100.

Like most places, there is a right side and a wrong side of the tracks. There is an old downtown, slowly being replaced by sterile urban renewal. Still standing, though, are several blocks of dark, hulking warehouses on lower Fourth Street. Harry Smith remembers growing up amid the warehouses when they seemed lighter, more alive. Farmers and cowboys, flush with market money, filled the divey bars along the street. There were tinhorn gamblers, too, conning the hicks. And the prostitutes who worked upstairs from the barber college that Harry’s father owned played “You Are My Sunshine” over and over again on the Victrola.

Harry scratched his way up from lower Fourth Street. He learned how to barber, worked his way through college, played basketball, toyed with the idea of becoming a coach. His father wanted him to be a lawyer. “Harry,” the old man said, “anybody who’s anything in this town is a lawyer.”

So Harry became a lawyer. And while it wasn’t easy for a poor kid to break into the established firms in town, there were groups like the Teamsters union that needed representation. The Teamsters became his first client, for a fee of $25 a month in 1940. After hitches in World War II and Korea, Harry started collecting other unions – the meat cutters in the local packing houses, the building trades – and before long, the AFL-CIO in Iowa, in Nebraska across the river and in South Dakota.

“It was good work,” Harry says now, still lean and powerful, sitting in his law office. “You had the feeling you were on the right side, representing the working man. During the McCarthy era, they even called me a Communist. Then, all of a sudden in 1968, the liberals thought I was a shitheel.”

By then, of course, Harry had become a pretty powerful figure in Sioux City. He was the classic old-line labor boss. Early on, he had discovered the importance of politics (and also the fun) – the contracts, the favors, the power. “The issues?” he says. “There was only one issue: taking care of your people.”

In 1968, though, there was another issue – the war – and Harry was on the wrong side. It was difficult for him to comprehend. You sat down to bargain with the liberals and they wouldn’t give anything. Even the worst management types usually wound up compromising when you got them to the table. But these antiwar people … they saw everything in terms of right and wrong, black and white. Under the circumstances, there was only one thing Harry could do: he tried to crush them. In 1968, he succeeded with Humphrey and everybody lost. In 1972, they succeeded with McGovern and everybody lost.

Now, Harry Smith had a better idea. A wonderful notion. “I did it by subtraction. I wanted to go with the guy who offended the least people. Birch Bayh offended the least people.”

The funny thing was that Harry’s strategy seemed to be working. Some of his bitterest antiwar rivals – Kitty Green, Lon and Virginia Hood – had come around and joined the team. But something even more significant was happening that Harry was only barely aware of. The issues the liberals cared about were changing, were swinging back to the good old issues Harry knew and loved. Jobs. Inflation. Big business. Harry was in danger of finding himself back on the side of the angels again.

“I think,” he said, leaning back in his big chair and smiling, “those crazy liberals are finally maturing.”

It wasn’t the same anymore, without the war, Kitty Green thought. She wondered why she still bothered with politics. Oh, Birch Bayh was an all right candidate – and even more than all right on women’s issues and juvenile justice – but still, Kitty found herself getting more excited about the local hockey team than about politics … not a great situation for someone with the title of Bayh cochairperson in Sioux City.

“People say I’m a cause junkie and I guess it’s true,” she said, sipping a Coke in J.C. Penney’s one afternoon. She had long black hair and tinted glasses and looked like a cause junkie. “I’ll get involved in an issue and feel really high, really terrific … but eventually it gets difficult. Even when you win something, it doesn’t feel like you’ve won. Sometimes I worry that by participating like this, I’m buying into a system that I really don’t want to buy into.

“I don’t trust Harry Smith,” she said. There were so many things Harry could do to screw it up. He could take his trade unionists for Bayh and switch to Hubert Humphrey at the county convention. Hell, he could switch to Richard Nixon (Harry had supported Republicans locally when it suited his interests) and none of his people would gripe, they were so loyal.

“I think my greatest disappointment would be if Bayh got in there and turned out to be just like the others … and yet, I have a feeling that’s what could happen.”

Throughout the two weeks before the precinct meetings, the candidates, their wives, children and friends drifted in and out of Sioux City. One day it was Jimmy Carter’s sister, a heavy-duty Christian trying to convince the local fundamentalist prayer groups. Then it was Jim Hightower, the Fred Harris campaign coor-dinator and farm expert, trying to talk sense amid the tractors at the Tri-State Farm Machinery Show. Then Mo Udall, Lincolnesque and decent. Then Sargent Shriver at the local Catholic high school. A Shriver cousin. Jimmy Carter’s son. Birch Bayh’s son. Scoop Jackson’s wife …

The same faces kept appearing at all the political functions. Virginia Hood, a Bayh supporter, said she and her husband Lon went to see Mo Udall because “we’re friends with Susie Jones – she works for Mo – we’ve worked together with her on issues in the past and didn’t want her to be embarrassed by not having a crowd.”

There were precious few “uncommitted” voters at any of these events. One, though, was a woman who explained, while waiting for Sargent Shriver to appear at a luncheon, “I try to go to as many things like this as I can. It’s a good way of getting out of the house.”

“How do you make your judgment?” she was asked.

“By, uh, characteristics …”


“Yeah, you know, how they look. How they handle themselves. I mean, they all say pretty much the same thing, don’t they?”

“Look, how many people are there in Sioux City? Maybe 80,000, right?” said Gary Lipshutz, sitting in the bar atop the new Hilton Inn downtown, and staring across the meager Sioux City skyline. “Of those 80,000, maybe 20 or 30 in each party are active politically. They go to all the meetings, they do all the work. They’re the ones who pull their friends out to the precinct caucuses. No one else in town gives a shit. That’s the first thing you should know about this place. Half the people in town don’t even know there’s an election this year. And most of those who know don’t care. At least not yet.”

In 1968 and 1972, Gary Lipshutz was a devoted foot soldier in the antiwar movement. He worked hard for McCarthy and McGovern, got involved in local politics, ran for city council and lost. He is comfortable financially. His family owns two clothing stores and he spends his spare time owning the local minor league hockey team. But he’s frustrated.

“I don’t know,” he says, “maybe it’s my age. I just don’t care that much anymore. In 1968, you could walk into a room and know immediately who was on your side. You don’t have anything like that now. What’s the difference, really, between Bayh and Udall and Carter?

“I think we’ve lost the American Dream – I know that sounds trite, but look: it used to be that a politician could promise something that was meaningful to most people, like a chicken in every pot. Everybody wanted and needed the same things. Nowadays it’s difficult to find two people who want the same thing. It doesn’t work promising two cars in every garage to someone who lives in a commune. A lot of people don’t even know what they want.”

Gary wasn’t even sure what he wanted. He found himself growing old in Sioux City. Friends of his had gone off and made it big in places like Washington, and he remained. He often thought of his minor league hockey players: each had a flaw, like size or speed or bad luck, that kept him from making it in the big leagues. And he thought about himself: “It’s relatively easy to make it in Sioux City compared to New York. But once you’ve made it here, what exactly have you made?”

On January 11th, five candidates plopped down into Sioux City simultaneously, causing a bit of a ruckus at the Sioux City airport, which is not the largest airport in the country. Eventually it was all sorted out, and the five arrived at the Sioux City auditorium where they gave speeches to a crowd estimated at 1,200. The audience reaction could be charitably described as taciturn. There were some cheers for Birch Bayh and Jimmy Carter from their already committed supporters. Scoop Jackson told a joke that actually drew some laughter. Fred Harris yelled and Mo Udall still was Lincolnesque. Sargent Shriver was represented by yet another Kennedy cousin. Then there was a straw poll, which was won by Bayh, Jimmy Carter second, the rest trailing badly. Some of the political experts wondered why only 856 of the 1,200 people present voted in the straw poll.

don’t vote,” said Maureen, sipping a beer after a long evening’s work as an orderly at the hospital.

“You don’t vote?” said Janey, also sipping a beer. Fresh from her bowling league, she was wearing a Dairy Queen bowling shirt emblazoned with, “We Can Make the Splits,” a slogan Janey took credit for developing. “Why don’t you vote?”

“I don’t know,” said Maureen. “I suppose I should, shouldn’t I?”

“Well, you’re expected to …”

“But, I mean, what difference does it make?”

“Well … I guess, yeah … I voted for Nixon last time.”

Conny Bodine was having a rough time with the Saltines. He tried to rip one end of the cellophane package, but it wouldn’t give and his soup was getting cold. “The reason I’m for Jimmy Carter,” he said, trying to appear nonchalant but still struggling, “is executive experience.”

He turned the package around, tried to rip the other side. No luck. “Executive experience is very important in running a government,” he said, picking up his knife and thrusting it into the package. It slipped off the end.

“And I think Carter has proven his ability to run a government.” He was trying to tear open the package with his teeth now. Nope. “Damn thing,” he said. He put down the Saltines. “All you have to do is look at his record in Georgia, the things he did to streamline the government. I think he’s the least hazardous candidate of the lot.”

He picked up the Saltines again, and the package ripped open easily. “Management is the key,” he said. “The ability to manage things is crucial in a president.”

Cornelius Bodine Jr. is well known in Sioux City for his ability to manage. For nearly a decade, he was generally regarded as the best city manager the town had ever seen. His downfall, it was said, came because he was too smart and too honest. He is a distinguished-looking man, with wavy gray hair and a deep voice that is probably the result of smoking too many Luckys. He is well read, polite and honest. If Harry Smith is the Prince of Darkness in Sioux City, Conny Bodine is the Prince of Light. Naturally, they hate each other.

Conny was born in Philadelphia and came out of World War II aching to do good. He became interested in city management because, he says, “local government is the most important business in the country and is the closest to the people.” And so he devoted his life to it. He revered competence and professionalism. The symmetry of rational government, rare thing that it is, was poetry to Conny Bodine. In fact, he wrote three sonnets for the Sioux City annual report of 1962, including one with the following lines: “A city can be man’s key instrument/For good or ill, based on its management.”

He left Sioux City for three years in the late Sixties for what seemed to be the ultimate challenge: city manager of Newark, New Jersey. He came home frustrated and signed on as a vice-president with Iowa Beef Processors, Inc. IBP was a company with a brilliant idea: instead of just sending sides of beef to the big cities in the East, why not chop up the beef in South Sioux City, put it in boxes according to cut and send it out like that? Food retailers could buy the cuts they wanted, without having to bother with the rest of the steers. Greater efficiency, to be sure. Cheaper, certainly. An idea that would appeal to a man with a mind like Conny Bodine’s. But not one that would appeal to the butchers in big cities who stood to lose their jobs, or the meat cutters in the old-line packing houses in Sioux City. The Amalgamated Meat Cutters union (Harry Smith, remember?) struck IBP in 1969, a bitter strike which ended only after about 15 bombings, many fires and at least one death. It polarized Sioux City and the enmity remains.

Some of the people in town began to look at Conny Bodine differently after that. He was still a noted reformer and intellectual, but now he was also Management in a Labor town. He still fought the good fight against the war in Vietnam and for better local government, but the times were changing. When the war ended, his old reform allies gradually became interested in the economy. They started talking about things like monopolies and decentralization. A pleasant idea, decentralization, but looking down the road, all Conny could see was more and greater centralization. It was more efficient, it conserved energy. Some liberals were even questioning the value of technological advance, of progress. He couldn’t begin to understand that. Management, efficiency, progress. That was why he favored Jimmy Carter. His old friends supported Birch Bayh and Mo Udall.

“You can’t fight technology,” he said. “You can’t turn back the clock.”

The local Carter campaign seemed to have a corner on true believers in Sioux City. There were the Democratic businessmen; there were the farmers who liked Jimmy’s down-home style; but most important there were the local Jesus brigades. The Right to Life groups, who had somehow gotten the notion that Jimmy Carter supported a constitutional amendment banning abortion (he didn’t, really). The Protestant fundamentalists were aboard, too.

“Jimmy Carter is a Christian,” said Jim Hodgins, who worked on the killing floor of one of the local slaughterhouses. “He is a real Christian, not someone who just pays lip service.”

“How can you tell?” he was asked.

“You can tell,” he replied.

Jim Hodgins was sitting in his living room, which featured a crucifix, two Bibles, a votive candle and a picture of Jesus. He was a compactly built man, quiet, calm, kindly.

“America is sick and it has to be straightened out,” he said. “Blood is dripping from Washington. We need a return to basic Christian principles.” Jim was a Catholic, but also part of the “Charismatic” Christian group that includes both Catholics and Protestants, believes that the devil is alive and kicking, and strictly interprets the Bible. He said the abortion issue was important but superficial. “It is more than that. All human rights issues are important. But most important is that Jimmy Carter is an honest man and a Christian. You see, there is a change coming. A good change. God can do for America what He did for Moses. People are going to have to find God for themselves, as I did, but Carter can help by leading us in the right direction.”

East High School in Sioux City is considered to be so normal that ABC has considered using it for a documentary on how Middle Americans are educated. Recently an English teacher at East High asked two of her classes to write essays about their heroes.

Most said they didn’t have any heroes. The few who did chose TV stars like Carol Burnett and Baretta. The only politicians mentioned were Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon, the latter being the hero of a Vietnamese refugee in one of the classes.

Gene Farrell, the principal of East High School, is a tall man with a severe crew cut. He is known as a strict disciplinarian, but was also a supporter of George McGovern in 1972. His teachers say he is a man who cares so deeply for the state of the world that sometimes he literally gets sick over it.

Sitting in the faculty lunchroom one day, he said, “I’d probably support Fred Harris for president if I thought he had a chance, but he doesn’t. The country needs a little populism, and we’ve never elected a populist.

“So I’m not supporting anybody this time, and I used to be quite active. I used to contribute money all the time, but I’ll never contribute to another political candidate again in my life. I’ll give money to something like Common Cause, but never again to a candidate.

“Why not? Because … it used to be that people would applaud when they showed a picture of the president or the flag on the old newsreels at the movies. Fourth of July used to be pretty big. But these last 15 years … I never really liked any war, even though I fought in World War II, but Vietnam was a moral disgrace. And then we get this Nixon for president …

“I guess I sound like a bitter old man, saying the country’s going down the drain. But I am embittered. They’ve taken something I love very much and they’ve ravaged it.”

Don O’Brien is one of the few people in town who can actually get along with both Harry Smith and Conny Bodine. In fact, Don can get along with just about everyone. But he especially gets along well with the Kennedys.

He is middle-aged now, with dry-look gray hair swept back in the Kennedy style. But once he was a young Irish lawyer who fell in love with a young Irish senator from Massachusetts. There are people like Don spread throughout the country, people who will never forget, people who can be roused with a simple phone call from Hyannis Port.

John Kennedy appointed Don O’Brien U.S. attorney for northern Iowa and Don remembers going to Washington for meetings. “They always had something going for the wives. A tea at Ethel Kennedy’s house or a cruise on the yacht or a fashion show. They always treated you well, they respected you.”

Loyalty. Don is so loyal to the Democratic party that he worked in Texas and California for George McGovern in 1972, even though he knew the campaign was a loser and even though he thought McGovern was a bit too liberal. “The issues don’t mean a hell of a lot to me,” he says. “If I disagree with the candidate, I’ll try to work from the inside to change him.”

This year, Don held off as long as he could. He said he was tired and wanted to tend to his law practice. But Eunice Kennedy Shriver kept calling, kept pressuring, and the final result was inevitable. About a week before the caucuses, he declared for Shriver. He started making phone calls, and ushered all the young Shriver cousins with the distinctive Kennedy teeth around town.

At first it seemed that Don would be able to activate the Catholics. Shriver was a big hit when he appeared at the local parochial school; he was the only Catholic running. But it soon became apparent that Carter had siphoned off the Right to Lifers – no one was quite sure how – and Don began carrying around a position paper put out by the National Women’s Political Caucus which showed that Carter was opposed to the abortion amendment, just like Shriver.

It was a strange position for Don, arguing with Catholics over issues (especially that issue) and he didn’t have much time. But it was politics and he loved it. He loved the phone calls and touching people on the elbow, just slightly, as you tried to win them over. It was Don against Harry against Conny – the candidates were just pawns – to see who had the most clout in town. In precinct 11, Don’s brother Jack would go head to head against Harry Smith. When told that Harry was predicting victory in the precinct, Don’s eyes lit up. “He is, huh?” Then a smile. “I wonder if he’d be willing to bet on it.”

In 1972, an Indian walked into the precinct 11 caucus. No one had ever seen him before: he was a McGovern supporter and wanted to be a delegate. Not surprisingly, he was ignored. But when the selection of delegates was completed, he raised his hand and asked if the caucus was familiar with the McGovern Commission rules on affirmative action for the selection of young people, women and minorities as delegates. He reminded them that he was a young Indian. His name was Ernie Ricehill and he wound up going to the county, district and state conventions … as well as to the national convention in Miami Beach.

Four years later, Ernie is a spokesman for the Indians in Sioux City and, not coincidentally, a pol. He weighs his words now, and works the angles. His candidate in 1976 would need two things: he would have to be good on Indian issues and he would have to be strong enough to get Ernie to the convention. “I’m trying to tell the other Indians not to go with Harris because he won’t get them anywhere,” he said the week before the caucus. “Okay, it’s expediency. But I’m not sure how I’ll go yet. Maybe Bayh, maybe Udall, maybe uncommitted. Whichever looks best.”

Despite the attractions of precinct 11, it was generally agreed that precinct nine was the wildest in town. All factions would be represented there. Lots of diverse people (including, one year, the town drunk). What’s more, it was one of the few caucuses still held in a private home – the home of precinct committeewoman Joan Kelly and her husband Tim, a carpenter.

On the Friday before the caucuses, Joan Kelly sat in her den and talked about the campaign. She was quite animated, a big, open, friendly woman with dark hair pulled back and horn-rimmed glasses. “I’m not backing anyone. I’m not impressed with any of them. They all say the same thing.” It was a statement heard so frequently in Sioux City that it almost had become rote. But then, Joan Kelly added something rather surprising:

“You may laugh at this, but you know who I kind of like this year? Jerry Brown, the governor of California. Maybe it’s because we don’t have an issue like the war, maybe it’s because of Watergate, but I feel so damn burned out. I’ve got about 25 questions I’d like to ask the candidates, but they come to town and all you get to do is touch their hand. Then they make that same speech – you can practically recite it along with them. I thought things might be different this year because of all that mess in Washington, but it’s business as usual. And I’m tired of it. I’m tired of losing. The only time I ever won was when we got Harold Hughes into the Senate, then he started hearing voices and went off in the wilderness.

“But Jerry Brown seems different. I like his philosophy – that small is better, that government should be cut back. I like the way he’s handling himself. Last November, I think it was, I read this interview with him and I showed it to the president at my college – I’m alumni relations director over at Briar Cliff – and he said, ‘You run him and I’ll vote for him.’ I wonder if a lot of other people feel the same. I know that everyone I talk to is tired of these other guys.”

The weekend before the caucuses was one of nervous anticipation. It seemed everyone in town had a bet on the Super Bowl. There was also some interest in politics, but not much. The candidates plastered the local newspapers and TV with ads. The occasional labor newspaper, Truth Express, featured a column by Harry Smith (writing under the pseudonym “Harden Colfax”) which blasted Jimmy Carter as the candidate of big business. There was some last-minute activity for Udall on the part of the postal workers because Mo was on the committee in Congress that oversees the post office: the mailmen figured that even if he lost, they’d need his vote. And then on Super Sunday, in many of the Catholic churches, the priests told their flocks to vote for Jimmy Carter because of the abortion issue.

Sampling the mood of the people on Monday, the day of the caucuses, it became quite clear that much of the populace was upset because the Steelers had won, but hadn’t met the point spread.

The night of nights. The eyes of the nation turned toward Iowa. Decision ’76 and all that.

Precinct nine didn’t disappoint. Joan Kelly’s house was jammed with people representing each of the six active candidates, but the most militant group seemed to be the uncommitteds led by Gary Lipshutz. Gary had considered organizing a group around a protest candidate like Bella Abzug or Harry Truman, but decided against it because “this is such a crummy year that there isn’t even a protest candidate worth supporting.”

The meeting was called to order by Mack Smith, Harry’s son, who had been selected as temporary chairman. Mack’s job was rather difficult because there were people sitting in the living room, the den, the kitchen, the hall and up the staircase, but he acquitted himself well. He said there were 59 people present and 11 delegates to the county convention to be chosen. By the caucus rules, 15% of the people present would have to support a candidate in order for that candidate to get a delegate to the convention – 15% of 59 was nine, so nine was the magic number. “Okay,” he said, “we’re going to split up into candidate groups now. Carter supporters in this corner of the living room, Bayh supporters over there, uncommitteds in the hall, Udall and Shriver in the den …”

There commenced a period of general confusion while the groups sorted themselves out. The house was hot and smoky. A local TV camera crew had appeared and was recording the shuffling. When the dust cleared, Joan Kelly’s house looked like this:

There were 13 uncommitteds in the hall, led by Gary Lipshutz and Joan Kelly. A motley crew, ranging from Joan’s son – a high school student – to two elderly women who couldn’t make up their minds between Shriver and Carter. Contrary to popular wisdom, none of the uncommitteds were closet Humphrey people.

There were 12 Bayhs in the living room. Mostly union people and teachers.

There were 12 Carters in the living room. Half were Right to Lifers, half businesspeople.

There were ten Udalls in the den. Intellectual types from Briar Cliff College. A mailman. A young rabbi and a young nun.

There were seven Shrivers. All friends of Don O’Brien.

There were four Harrises. A man who looked like an Indian and three women.

There was one Jackson. The business agent from the local painters’ union.

Mack announced that the Shriver, Jackson and Harris groups were not “viable” – that is, they didn’t have the 15% of the caucus required to win a delegate – so they had to join some other group or go uncommitted.

The Jackson guy immediately went uncommitted, and attention focused on the Harris people. “How many do the Shrivers need?” a Harris woman asked.

“Two,” she was told.

“Well, it would be a shame for them to come so close and not get anything out of it,” she said. And then, in a move designed to confound the national political pundits, she and the Harris man joined the Shriver group and made them viable. “I don’t know much about Shriver,” the man said, “but these people needed some help.”

The two other Harris people went to Udall and uncommitted, respectively. The final totals were: 15 uncommitted, 12 Bayh, 12 Carter, 11 Udall and 9 Shriver. This translated into three delegates uncommitted, two for each of the rest. It was all quite amiable. And it was over in little more than an hour.

Meanwhile Harry Smith’s Bayh forces were winning the city, but not as big as they had expected (in fact, Harry was personally shut out in precinct 11 by Jack O’Brien’s Shriver group and by the Carter people). Carter was sweeping the Catholic precincts in town and the rural precincts out in the country. Shriver was trailing badly as were Udall and Harris. It was apparent that the county convention would swing on the whims of the uncommitted. Harry Smith was not very happy. He was especially chagrined by Carter’s Catholic support. “I thought this was supposed to be a caucus of Democrats,” he said, typically, “not Right to Lifers.”

Across the state, Carter was doing okay too. But not quite so well as the uncommitteds, who were winning a clear-cut victory. Somehow, the national newspapers and TV networks got the situation reversed: they called Jimmy Carter’s 27% a “stunning” victory. One can only imagine what they will say when some candidate gets 30% of a primary.

And back in precinct nine, Gary Lipshutz – still militantly uncommitted – was jubilant. “This was a great moral victory. A people’s victory,” he said, laughing. “In fact, it was a mandate! This year, we’re going all the way.” 


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