In a Style section story Saturday on Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.), it was reported that the Democratic Leadership Council had favored contra aid. Some of the council's leaders did, but the group as a whole never formally did. (Published 2/16/88)

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- To Gordon Gekko, business is not about making things; it is merely the tracking of pulsing numbers on a green computer screen. His motive in wrecking a company is that "it is wreckable." Liquidate stocks! Liquidate bonds! Liquidate workers!

Thus, Oliver Stone's big-screen morality play, "Wall Street."

In north-central Iowa, Rep. Richard A. Gephardt mounts a platform in a metal railroad shed. A huge yellow diesel locomotive, draped with two American flags, stands as a backdrop; klieg lights shine on him. Every word the candidate breathes into the bitter cold is a steamy, vaporous cloud.

"What this election is all about," he says, is "fundamental, basic change ... what I see everywhere -- we're losing our standard of living ... the middle class is starting to shrink." But those "just interested in paper profits don't want change." They will defend their privileges. "It's your fight, too!"

Thus, Richard Gephardt's morality play -- and, four days later, his victory in the Iowa caucuses.

"It's what I think," he says in an interview here a week later, about "Wall Street" -- the movie. "It was written by a guy who knows it, he really understands it. It really did ring true."

The Wall Street rentiers, says Gephardt, "can make money and are making money out of the decline in the American economy. So long as they are making big profits they'd just as soon see it go on. They don't care. Takeover attempts, putting together financings, trashing companies ... the transition can go on for years ... it's killing us."

What Gephardt is talking about is what he sees as a battle between the part of the economy that crashed last October -- Wall Street and its world of red-suspendered speculators -- and the manufacturing part of the economy that crashed in the 1982 recession and fell further under the weight of the Fed's Big Dollar. In one of his television ads, Gephardt says, "We must not abandon those who build our cars, forge our steel and farm our land."

This is only in part class conflict -- call it "sector conflict."

Gephardt relies on iconographies of the smokestack and the reaper, but the "sector conflict" is not necessarily between the high-tech and low-tech industries.

"Industrial includes more than steel and automobiles," says Gephardt. "It includes a lot of things we have thought of as emerging industries, or new technologies ... What we've missed is the interrelatedness of the whole economy.

"But obviously this {decline} has particularly affected older industries ... We have to confront these things square on or we're going to go down ... I don't see any inconsistency in it at all."

Gephardt sees himself as representing those who produce, opposed to those who wheel and deal. In this he connects himself to the populist lineage, observing in one speech, somewhat anachronistically, that Andrew Jackson was "never popular on Wall Street." Gephardt's affirmation of the nation against the global market lends him his populist energy.

Historically, populism has been a movement of protest. What makes Gephardt's rendering especially potent is the addition of economic nationalism. Since 1960, in presidential elections, nationalism has often been debated in military terms -- Kennedy's missile gap, Reagan's window of vulnerability.

Gephardt has transferred the theme from military comparisons with the Soviets to an economic comparison with our trading partners. "It's the economic gap," he says. "The real competition of the next 20 or 30 years is economic and not military ... if we continue a senseless arms race, only the countries that are engaged in economic competition will win."

Gephardt reaches for a phrase to capture the profound transformation he believes is demanded: "I'm talking about an American rejuvenation, a renaissance -- an American perestroika."

But Gephardt of Missouri, who fashions himself a modern Harry Truman, does not yet have a Fair Deal for a new generation. What he has is a plan to negotiate trade surpluses in a world market where the biggest U.S. competitors are multinational.

To some, however, he is speaking the unspeakable.

"There is a huge group who feels the status quo is good for them, so don't change it," says Gephardt. "They are importing goods for Americans. 'So don't fool with it because you're going to mess up what I've got.' You've got people literally hired by foreign countries who don't want this policy to change -- Washington lobbyists, advertising firms, people making big bucks off the importation of products, who think they may be affected, don't understand what I'm talking about."

In the search for support, or at least supporting evidence, Gephardt says he has begun reading William Greider's "Secrets of the Temple," which makes the modern populist case that the Reagan administration and Federal Reserve policies under Paul Volcker were "disastrous for farm exports, for heavy industry, for any enterprise whose market was not protected by national boundaries."

"As the book indicates," says Gephardt, "Volcker and the bankers have an interest that is served in the way they run the bank."

But even as Gephardt explains his positions, his staff worries about a skeptical response. Once again, a relatively little known figure, suddenly looming as a possible president, is subjected to the microscope. Sen. Paul Simon, running third behind Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis and Gephardt in polls for Tuesday's primary here, has aired ads contrasting the earlier, more conservative incarnation of Gephardt with the reliably liberal liberal.

Who, critics ask, is Richard Gephardt? Is the candidate "The Candidate," more artifice than reality? How does the bland former St. Louis alderman get this newfound intensity?

Is Gephardt the "Robocandidate," a creature constructed from the spare parts of dead campaigns? Is he a practitioner of "situational politics," adjusting his action to the exigencies of the moment?

But there is a larger question than Gephardt's purity of heart. It is whether his message is an effort to make yesterday tomorrow -- a vain promise to restore a lost industrial America.

"We've accepted decline," he says. "We don't have to accept this. We can reorder the future."

America's Home Room Gephardt began his political career far from thoughts of perestroika, in the 14th ward of St. Louis to be precise. He grew up ambitious, earnest and ambitious. He is the son of the Protestant ethic -- his mother Loreen, who drilled in him the idea that hard work would win the day.

But from his father Louis, he learned that this was not always so. Louis Gephardt strived to succeed, but at each turn he failed: lost a family farm, left his job as a milkman because, according to his son, "his back gave out ... went into real estate and never did as well as driving a milk truck ... My mother went to work when I was in the fifth grade so that there could be enough chance for us to go to college. My dad never did well. He was a great person, wonderful father. There were months when I'd come home and he'd be sitting at the desk, wondering how to make the payments on the house ... I understand what it means to be not poor, but up against it economically.

"When I'm in plants and I hear people sit across the table and say, 'I just lost my job and I don't know where I'm going to get one and I don't know how I'm going to go home and tell my kids,' what goes off in my mind is what it was like when my dad said, 'I don't know how we're going to pay for this, I can't buy you a pair of pants, I can't just buy you a pair of shoes, you're just going to have to do with what we've got.'

"I understand what that means. Workers in this country are getting crushed. It's not so much that they've lost their jobs; it's that the best job they can get pays $5 an hour. Their wives are working for $5 an hour. At the end of the month they have nothing."

After graduating from Northwestern University and the University of Michigan Law School, Gephardt joined a downtown St. Louis law firm and immediately entered politics. In 1968 -- the year of generational decision -- the new 14th Ward committeeman supported Hubert Humphrey -- not Robert F. Kennedy, not Eugene McCarthy -- for the nomination. Gephardt belonged to the student council wing of the Democratic Party. But he was rising in a declining political machine in a declining city.

In 1971 he was elected to the Board of Aldermen and he was an advocate of the neighborhoods against the banks, which engaged in "redlining" -- the refusal to grant loans and mortgages to some working-class districts.

"The town was decaying within," Gephardt says. "Neighborhoods were emptying out. Everybody had written it off. We went to the banks and said, 'You've got to put your money back into this town.' We fought them tooth and nail." But Gephardt also became controversial for his support of tax abatements for certain real estate interests.

In 1976 he was elected to Congress, again finding himself in a hierarchical political system in decline. He advanced by attaching himself to older mentors, particularly the powerful Rep. Richard Bolling from his home state.

Gephardt's agenda reflected his socially conservative, "scrubby Dutch" district. For him, it was home room in America. He proposed constitutional amendments to bar abortion and busing for desegregation; favored the neutron bomb and nerve gas, and a more progressive tax code.

Gephardt believed that Jimmy Carter was "his kind of Democrat," according to an old friend. It was the height of post-Nixon good government managerialism. Gephardt, the young insider, became appalled at Carter's ineffectiveness. Still, in the 1980 primaries that ripped the Democrats apart, he remained with Carter, disliking Sen. Edward Kennedy more, considering him "outworn," says a longtime Gephardt friend.

Gephardt had enhanced his reputation during the Carter years by opposing the president's hospital cost containment bill in 1979, also opposed by the American Medical Association and business groups. Gephardt's position was somewhere in a vague middle. He was moving himself toward a center of his own creation. Clearly, the tide was going out on Kennedy's brand of liberalism and Carter's managerialism.

In the early days of the Reagan ascendancy, Gephardt voted for the supply-side tax program and even chided the president in a 1981 news release for his passivity on the "social issues ... to reverse the misguided social trends of the '60s and '70s."

But Gephardt was faithful to the Democratic Party as an institution. That devotion swiftly pulled him far from the shores of Reaganism. In 1981 he acquired a new mentor, Louisiana Rep. Gillis Long, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, who was seeking an innovative alternative to Reagan's economic policies. A year later, the caucus' Special Task Force on Long-Term Economic Policy, on which Gephardt was a key member, issued its high-tech-oriented manifesto that sketched the outline for much of the subsequent Democratic debate. Gephardt and other younger members of the task force, were labeled "Atari Democrats."

Gephardt himself moved on to the issue of taxes -- one element of a larger economic strategy -- cosponsoring a bill with Sen. Bill Bradley that became the basis for tax reform in 1986. In 1985 he proposed the Gephardt amendment, an instrument to open closed foreign markets with the threat of a slowly closing American door. For this, he was widely labeled a "protectionist."

In his next rite of passage, Gephardt succeeded Long, who died in 1985, as caucus chairman. In the meantime, Long's chief aide, Alvin From, set up a group called the Democratic Leadership Council whose mission, in the aftermath of the Mondale debacle, was to yank the party toward "the center." Gephardt became its first chairman and labeled himself a "terminal centrist."

But the DLC, in an effort to gain an image of strength for the party, backed the contra war in Nicaragua. "I never believed that what the DLC was for was to move the party ideologically," says Gephardt.

A month after Mondale's defeat, Gephardt decided he would run for president. He discussed the impending campaign with Hamilton Jordan, Carter's former political strategist. Gephardt's campaign, in effect, was his legislative priority, especially economic "competitiveness," an abstract and metallic buzzword.

No House member had been elected president since James Garfield. How could Gephardt appear as more than the reflection of a representative's compromises? "We didn't know what the message would be," says a close Gephardt associate.

The 'Inside Insurgent' On Jan. 1, 1987, Patrick Caddell, the pollster to the Democratic nominees from 1972 to 1980 and to Gary Hart in 1984, completed a 92-page memo on the '88 campaign. This work was presented to a group of Mondale financial backers now reconstituted as IMPAC 88.

The ideal candidate in 1988, Caddell wrote, would be "an inside insurgent" -- a formulation intended to address the flaws of Carter, Mondale and Hart:

"A total outsider would likely rend the party beyond electoral repair. Yet a candidate who was viewed as candidate of the party's establishment would have limited general appeal. What is needed is a candidate who is an insurgent, somewhat anti-establishment, who represents change and yet is able to have real inside party support from political leaders, activists, and elected officials."

It was a theme that had been earlier spun out by Alan Baron, the political newsletter writer, and William Schneider, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, who planned to write a book on "The Radical Center." Caddell's candidate of choice was Sen. Joseph Biden, though Biden did not truly fit the prescription. And when Biden plagiarized the identity of British Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock, he was completely out of the race.

By then, Caddell was in Santa Barbara, but the general notion of the inside insurgent was still awaiting a candidate.

Gephardt says he has never read Caddell's memo. But he adds, "My whole career has been about inside insurgency since I was on the St. Louis Board of Aldermen."

In early 1987, Bill Carrick left his position as Ted Kennedy's political director to become Gephardt's campaign manager. Carrick took the job only after he convinced himself that "there's no Jimmy Carter in this guy," he says.

Carrick prodded Robert Shrum, a member of Kennedy's political directorate and his speech writer, into writing Gephardt's announcement speech -- "Make America first again" -- and then asked him to join the campaign. Shrum, who had briefly worked for Carter during the '76 campaign but became quickly disillusioned, didn't much care for "terminal centrism," which he considered a form of Carterism. When Gephardt invited Shrum to dinner, he put him off. "I didn't know if I'd like to have dinner," says Shrum. He asked Kennedy what he thought. The senator told him to talk to the congressman. "Finally," says Shrum, "I liked Bill a lot and I said, 'Sure.' "

He says he came away from his dinner with Gephardt impressed: "I found him unbelievably smart: He knows issues ... we talked a good deal about the contra war and trade. . .his 'centrism' didn't relate to that." Shrum, too, went through the process of convincing himself Gephardt would not be a Carter. When Shrum joined the campaign, so did his partner, David Doak, who had been with the Biden campaign.

With Kennedy out of the race, his theme of "fighting for average people," as Shrum puts it, was available. Carrick believed that with no questions about Gephardt's character, the campaign should be fought on "issues and ideology." Gephardt would be strongest if he "kept it on a value-driven plane," says Carrick.

This conception neatly meshed with the notion of the inside insurgent. "It fits Gephardt a lot better than it fit Joe {Biden}," says a senior Gephardt adviser. "I hate to say it," says another, "but Caddell had it right."

Thus the Gephardt campaign drew upon elements of Caddellism without Caddell and Kennedyism without Kennedy.

Up From Iowa The Iran-contra scandal was the "watershed event of this campaign," says a senior Gephardt adviser. Before its revelation, Democrats had 3-in-the-morning anxiety attacks that perhaps Reagan might be right about some things. He remained the image of leadership: Campaign polling showed Democrats in search of their own Reagan.

For the Gephardt campaign, though, times kept getting tougher. After the October stock market crash, Gephardt was assailed for his trade policy, which was seen as a threat to a wobbling economy. "Everyone said the trade thing was dead," says Gephardt.

After the Dec. 1 Democratic debate, televised by NBC, Gephardt went into a tailspin. The Des Moines Register had him down to six points in Iowa. His own poll showed him at 10. The campaign was consumed with panic: should television ads be put on the air immediately to stanch the losses?

"It's always difficult to confront what was the fact, that we were dropping, washing out of the race," says Gephardt. "I just got mad."

On Dec. 17, Gary Hart dropped back into the race, roiling the polls further -- and completing the field of candidates. The day after Christmas, Gephardt's ads began airing in Iowa -- "Washington crossing the Delaware," says a top Gephardt adviser. For 10 days, the commercials went unanswered by the other candidates. "When it's over, let it be said that you changed America and gave it back its soul," the commercials said. Gephardt began his ascent, a phoenix on the prairie.

Along with the ads, his message was crystalized in three speeches, written by Shrum, fitting his issues with the anti-establishment theme. He excoriated Ivan Boesky and "a committee of elites composed largely of individuals worth millions of dollars," which, he said, sought to balance the budget by cutting Social Security: "It's your fight too!"

The day after his Iowa victory, Gephardt delivered a stemwinding speech here, drawing the line between "our America" and "their America."

"It's a new world we live in today," Gephardt says. "It is different than the one we were in 10 years ago and certainly 40 years ago." Gephardt wants to make his message new. He is straining toward another metamorphosis.

His plane had landed in Manchester to the blaring strains of Bruce Springsteen's anthem of declining industrial America, "Born in the U.S.A."