Reagan, Carter reaffirm leads -- and roll up delegates; Front-runners halfway to nomination
The message coming out of mid-America -- out of Wisconsin and kansas -- is that voters in that region may be more concerned with what they see as questions about Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's character than they are about possible inadequacies of the Carter administration.
Thus, the message of the New York and Connecticut primaries last week, that a protest-the-President sentiment was about to sweep the nation, has quickly lost much of its persuasiveness.
On the Republican side, the voters appear to be speaking with a single voice and it is saying, "We like Ronald Reagan."
Neither George Bush nor John B. Anderson did well enough in the two Midwest tests to improve their prospects.
Meanwhile, Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. of California, tromped on again in the Democratic primaries, has decided he has had enough. His rationale for leaving the fray is that his message simply is ahead of its time. This seems to forecast another Brown presidential try four years from now.
According to at least one delegate count, President Carter now has 848 of the 1,666 delegates needed for the nomination, while Senator Kennedy's delegate total stands at 445 1/2. Former California Governor Reagan has 395 Republican delegates, former UN Ambassador Bush, 75, and Illinois Congressman Anderson, 56, with 998 needed to win.
There was some protest against the President in Wisconsin expressed in crossover votes to the GOP race; but surprisingly Mr. Reagan benefited as much as Mr. Anderson.
Messrs. Reagan and Bush drew support from blue-collar workers in the Democratic ranks. Liberal Democrats, particularly in Dane Country (Madison), home of the University of Wisconsin, voted in large numbers for Mr. Anderson.
But the vast crossover vote which Mr. Anderson had hoped for simply was not there. This has stirred speculation that the Illinois congressman will within days become a third-party candidate.
The impressive aspect of the vote for the President was that his support came from people of all walks of life.
Thus, Mr. Carter appears to have kept the same broad base of support that has , except in three Eastern Seaboard states, given him victory after victory.
Reporters who are familiar with the next big primary battleground, Pennsylvania, are saying that the populous Keystone State much more resembles the Midwest, which it touches on the west, than New York on its north and eastern borders.
As the halfway mark of the primaries nears, the indicators now show:
* Messrs. Carter and Reagan remain the clear front-runners. Mr. Carter could still lose out to Senator Kennedy should his campaign suddenly collapse. But the Carter tailspin must start April 22 (the Pennsylvania primary) or it probably could not occur in time to keep him from getting the nomination.
Mr. Reagan's lead looks very solid. When he is introduced now at campaign appearances as the GOP presidential nominee, the audiences accept the statement as fact -- even though Mr. Reagan is not claiming this victory yet.
Mr. Bush and Mr. Anderson hang on.But for them to make a comeback now, Mr. Reagan must help out by doing something or saying something that would seriously damage his candidacy.
* The voters seem not (as had been forecast by some political observers) to be bored with the long-drawn-out primary process. Once again, in Wisconsin, there was a record voter turnout.