Kennedy delegates interviewed are split over whether or not they will support Jimmy Carter
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy has cleared the way for President Jimmy Carter, but now it is uncertain how many of the Massachusetts senator's delegates will rally around the President.
Monitor interviews with more than 60 delegates around the convention floor Aug. 11 -- just before and after Mr. Kennedy announced his withdrawal -- indicate that although a majority of Kennedy delegates say they will support Mr. Carter, a substantial number either said they were uncertain about what to do or flat out refused to vote for the President.
Just how many of Kennedy's 1,226 delegates will refuse to support the presidential ticket -- and what effect that may have on Carter's re-election drive -- is uncertain. But interviews indicate that the delegates so far seem to be splitting into three groups:
* Those who would back Carter. A little more than half of the delegates interviewed indicated they would support a Democratic ticket, no matter who the nominee.
Aside from the traditional rank-and-file Democrats who insist on voting along party lines, many delegates saw an urgent need to unite to defeat Republican nominee Ronald Reagan this fall.
"I'll work for whoever is the Democratic nominee; I'm a party person," said Idahol delegate Marjorie Moon, standing in the packed blue-carpeted convention hall.
Said Ken Shawver of Ohio: "I'll support Mr. Carter in a general election once it's clear there's no chance to get Kennedy in. We ought to walk out of here united because we've got a battle on our hands in November.
A number of the informally polled delegates said they would be only half-hearted Carter supporters. A downcast Kennedy delegate from Rhode Island said she just couldn't actively campaign for President Carter. She said that for the November election she would confine her activism to state and local races. But she thinks Ronald Reagan is anti-union, so she will vote for the President.
* Fence sitters. The next largest group expressed a wait-and-see attitude about backing President Carter -- delegates who are disillusioned with what they see as his failure in leadership, particularly in the areas of women's rights and economic policy.
"I'm never going to vote Republican, but I don't know what I'm going to do," said Ohio delegate Mary McGinty. "I supported Carter in 1976 and I've been sorely disappointed. . .." Louise Uphoff, from Wisconsin, was more restrained. As she was being jostled by other delegates on the crowded convention floor, she said: "It depends on how he [Carter] handles this convention. If I see him returning to Democratic principles, I may vote for him. But I'm not going to support him just because he's the nominee of the Democratic Party."
* Those who refuse to vote for Carter. This small group includes those who said they will sit out the election, a very few who said they might vote for Reagan, some who will write in Kennedy on their ballots, and others who may support independent candidate John Anderson or Citizen's Party candidate Barry Commoner.
"I'll write in Ted," said Irene Parthum of Wisconsin. "Reagan will win anyway if Carter is the nominee, so I'll vote my conscience."