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'Old urban politics' may pull Mondale through in Florida

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A big Mondale banner is pasted on the outside of the building over the entrance to Sid Rubin's tiny ground-floor office here, just a few blocks from the ocean. Inside, Mr. Rubin sits behind a small, dusty, metal desk, wearing one Mondale button on his sport shirt and another on his sweater.

In a few words, this veteran of local politics sums up what appears to be part of Walter Mondales's problem with Gary Hart.

''He (Mondale) represents the old-line philosophy of the Democratic Party . . . Roosevelt . . . Kennedy.''

Mondale represents, he says, ''the old urban politics of the Democratic Party.''

That's just the message that Gary Hart, now with a New Hampshire and a Maine win to this credit, has been trying to get across.

But Rubin, a 30-year resident here, and secretary of this neighborhood's Democratic committee, is still banking on old-style ward politics and help from labor to carry this area for Mondale. The local Democratic committee selects a candidate to endorse, he explains, ''and they (voters) fall into line.''

Maybe.

Florida has a record of being unpredictable in national elections.

Florida continues to receive a massive influx of new residents, most of whom arrive with little knowledge of Florida's political past. Some come with former allegiance to the Republican Party, some are Democrats, others have no strong political ties, making the forecasting of winners in this state a tricky business.

In the last six presidential elections, for example, the state has gone Republican three times and Democratic three times. But this kind of volatility extends back even further.

V. O. Key Jr., in his book ''Southern Politics,'' published in the late '40s, titles his chapter on Florida politics ''Every man for himself.'' And no one seems to have much coattail effect here. Even candidates for governor have often avoided endorsement of the encumbent, in order not to be later tied to an outgoing administration.

During national elections in Florida, ''the Democratic Party has always dissolved into factions,'' says Christopher L. Warren, an assistant professor of politics at Florida International University.

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