Working against the clock, President Carter appears to be gaining ground in New York State, one of three in which independent candidate John Anderson is running his strongest race.
On a campaign blitz here Sept. 29, Mr. Carter was greeted with the news that a new poll puts him four points ahead of Ronald Reagan. Moreover, the state's top Democrats, including Mayor Edward Koch, Gov. Hugh Carey, and US Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman, the party's candidate for the US Senate, sung his praises lavishly , in sharp constrast to a lukewarm reception on his last visit -- the Democratic National Convention in August.
Despite that poll -- by the New York Post -- showing both Mr. Reagan and Representative Anderson losing support (especially among middle-class, upstate New Yorkers), Carter campaign strategists here say the race for the state's pivotal 41 electoral votes is still "wide open."
"Anderson still has the potential to throw the state to Reagan," Carter's New York campaign director, Ellis Woodward, told the Monitor. "Anderson getting 13 percent of the vote [as the Post poll showed in New York City] could be almost enough to do it."
But the Anderson campaign has sputtered here. For one thing, it is hampered by a lack of workers, although one worker maintains, "Anderson has a better chance in New York than many other places."
In the first statewide poll, conducted by Newsday and released last week, Anderson netted 15 percent of the vote, Reagan 29 percent, and Carter 35 percent -- with 19 percent undecided. This poll, however, did not include a separate set of figures for New York City.
Mr. Woodward says a key question -- one that no poll may be able to answer -- is what the re-election bid of US Sen. Jacob K. Javits will mean to Anderson. Senator Javits, defeated in his quest for the Republican nomination, will appear on the ballot of the influential Liberal Party Nov. 4 -- the same group that endorsed Anderson for president.
Jennifer Mackby, a Javits campaign spokeswoman, says there is "a good chance we might help [Anderson] and he might help us."
But Javits, who is well behind his Republican and Democratic opponents in the polls, has refused to endorse Anderson. Instead, he is suporting Reagan.
A recent poll on the Senate race showed Representative Holtzman at 35 percent , Republican candidate Alfonse M. D'Amato with 27 percent, and Javits with 25 -- with 13 percent undecided. But Javits, one of the greatest vote-getters in the history of New York politics, predicts that his service in congress and name recognition will put him on top Nov. 4. Some longtime political pundits agree.
Carter strategists say this was just the first of a series of weekly trips the President will make here between now and election day.
Reagan also will be in New York at least once a week for the remainer of the campaign, although his supporters say the state is not "essential" for victory nationwide.