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California win could buoy an on-the-ropes Kennedy

The Kennedy candidacy has hit some more snags -- perhaps signaling the end is not far away, reports Monitor presidential correspondent Godfrey Sperling Jr. from Washington.

United Automobile Workers president Douglas Fraser -- a strong Kennedy supporter -- has called the Carter nomination almost inevitable. Mr. Fraser denies that he has urged Democrats to unite behind the President. But some observers here see the UAW president beginning to position himself to find an accommodation with Mr. Carter after the June 3 primaries.

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And as Senator Kennedy's prospects become dimmer, a new attitude seems to be gaining ground among some of his supporters.

In essence, it is an expression of sorrow, even dismay that the senator had to be the one to carry the challenge to the President.

From the academic community, from labor, from blacks, and ethnics comes a growing complaint which says:

Mr. Carter was vulnerable to a challenge. But Senator Kennedy, because of questions about his character, may have been the very worst candidate to take advantage of the President's weaknesses.

Some key Democrats who are friendly to Mr. Kennedy have told the Monitor that the Massachusetts senator sees that the nomination now is probably beyond his reach -- and that he privately is discussing how he can come to some kind of an agreement with the President.

However, despite this, the senator is putting up a brave front -- moving tirelessly into and out of California, Ohio, and New Jersey, sites of important June 3 primaries.

Furthermore, there seems to be no problem with funds in the Kennedy camp. Says Paul Kirk, Senator Kennedy's top campaign aide in Washington: "We're able to get all the contributions we need."

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But, says a political analyst: "The political realities are closing in on Kennedy. He has to see that it will take a minor miracle to take the nomination away from the President."

From California, Monitor correspondent Sara Terry reports that there is no question that the delegate-rich California primary is essential to Senator Kennedy if he is to make an effective challenge at the Democratic convention in August. He told reporters at breakfast in Los Angeles as much.

And top Kennedy aides admit that a wide- margined California loss coupled with similar defeats in Ohio and New Jersey would effectively dash the senator's long-shot hopes for the presidency.

"I think the senator would then consider the platform and other areas where he might be a force at the convention," Mr. Kirk admits. "But," he emphasizes, that's just a hypothesis now, and one we're certainly not ready to consider."

Carter workers point out that even a 60-40 loss in California to Mr. Kennedy would still put the President over the top in the number of delegates needed for nomination.

However, there are those who believe that if Mr. Kennedy makes a strong showing in the final primaries in the West and in New Jersey it may add considerable momentum to the often-voiced Kennedy argument that Mr. Carter is unable to win the key Northeastern industrial and West Coast states needed for a Democratic victory in November.

Kennedy strategists say they intend to use the 60 days between the June primaries and Democratic convention to make the argument to delegates that Mr. Carter's electability is questionable and that the convention should be an open one.

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