As soon as he entered the ballroom the murmurs from the audience rippled through the room. Within minutes, unabashed autograph seekers and amateur photographers had swamped Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) as he came to speak in a forum traditionally packed with presidential hopefuls.
After the scores of people gaped and flashed their Instamatics at Kennedy, he told the 2,000 independent business conventioneers from Juneau, Alaska, to Miami, Fla., of all the things he had done to help them.
He then told them to question the procession of presidential candidates scheduled to speak to them during the next two days, about their stands on trucking deregulation, regulatory reform and competition, issues he has addressed in legislation.
"In the next few days you will be hearing from a number of distinguished speakers," Kennedy said. "Some of those speakers hope to have nationwide responsibilities." The delegates from the convention of the National Federation of Independent Business conventioneers, erupted in laughter.
"I urge you to ask those speakers what they have done to commit themselves to small business and to increasing competition," Kennedy said. "I urge you to ask them to speak not in generalities, but in specifics. Ask them where they stand on the competition improvements act, on trucking deregulation, on the merger act."
"And when you hear their promises of support," Kennedy continued, "listen carefully for two things: a commitment for protection against unwarranted corporate power through vigorous enforcement of the antitrust laws and a commitment for protection against unwarranted government power through regulatory reform. Both are essential to preserve the strength and vitality of small and independent businesses."
The other speakers Kennedy referred to include: Rep. Phillip M. Crane (R-Ill.), the first to declare his candidacy for the Republican nomination; undeclared dark horse Rep. Jack F. Kemp (R.-N.Y.), whose appearance and style have been compared to the late President John F. Kennedy; declared candidate John Connally, former Democratic governor of Texas; Ronald Reagan, undeclared candidate; Sen. Robert Dole (R-Kansas), declared candidate and former candidate Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas).
Several draft-Kennedy movements are starting in a number of states, but the senator's staff has said that he wants nothing done on his behalf. They say that Kennedy expects to support Carter in 1980.
Carter, whose name was bandied about in derogatory terms by some of the business owners before Kennedy's luncheon address, has been invited to speak to the group, but a federation spokesman said that Carter has not yet confirmed that he will appear. CAPTION: Picture, Sen Edward Kennedy addressing independennt business convention yesterday. By Frank Johnston - The Washington Post