The political world redrew its portrait of Jimmy Carter yesterday - in bold and winning colors.
From 1980 Republican hopeful John B. Connally's volunteered comment that the president "is entitled to very high marks" for a Middle East summit that "exceeded my fondest expectations," to the joking comment by an aide to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy that the Massachusetts senator may cancel his plans to address the New Hampshire Democratic convention next week, there was universal acknowledgement that the Camp David diplomatic achievement would be a tonic for Carter's sagging political standing.
By every politician's yardstick, the president was a larger, more commanding figure on the world stage, with Congress, and with his domestic constituents yesterday than he had been 24 hours before.
The only question mark - and it was a large one - was how big and how long-lasting the lift will prove to be.
Richard Wirthlin, a California-based conservative pollster who numbers Ronald Reagan among his clients, said, "In the short run, it has to be a strong positive for him [Carter] . . . but I don't see any massive recovery of confidence."
Peter D. Hart, a Democratic pollster in Washington, called it "a major plus" and said it could have long-lasting effects if expected legislative victories in Congress in coming days reinforce an impression that Carter is finally "a man in control of things."
Inside the White House, the Camp David summit was being described as a vindication of the president's often-criticized penchant for seeking "comprehensive" solutions to long-festering problems.
"People suddenly see a turning point for the president," one of his aides commented, "because the Middle East negotiations, the natural-gas bill and civil-service reform are all coming his way at once. But this is really a period of fruition.
"It's just like the 1976 campaign vindicated all the months of effort he put into New Hampshire and Iowa," he said. "That same process of vindication is being seen now."
Along with such abstractions, there was hope in the Carter circle that Sunday night's dramatic announcement of Israeli-Egyptian agreement on a framework for peace might signal a return of the "Carter luck" that characterized his 1976 campaign - and almost nothing he has tried as president.
The timing of the East Room ceremony at which Carter, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin signed the twin agreements could not have been better if it had been designed long in advance by Carter's media adviser, Jerry Rafshoon - which Rafshoon said it was not.
The White House drama interrupted heavily publicized "specials" on the three television networks on the heaviest viewing night of the week. Industry sources said it may have drawn the largest audience of any event of the Carter presidency.
Among the members of Congress invited to the White House, there was little doubt that the diplomatic breakthrough would increase Carter's leverage in a Congress which has tended to disregard his views with impunity.
Sen. Henry M. Jackson (D-Wash.), a frequent critic of the White House handling of legislation, said the CamP David success will have a "real, favorable impact on his ability to do business with Congress."
Rep. John Brademas (D-Ind.), the House majority whip, said, "You could feel the difference on the floor. The president was stronger today than 24 hours ago."
Others, however, cautioned that serious problems remain for Carter on the legislative front. Rep. John B. Anderson (R-Ill.) said that "despite all the hallelujahs and paeans of praise being sung, I don't think the public works veto is going to be affected."
There seemed more likelihood to politicians that Carter's 1980 fortunes would be boosted. Kennedy, who has been leading Carter in the polls a the preferred 1980 Democratic presidential candidate, quickly issued a statement praising the president for bringing "renewed hope for a lasting peace."
An associate commented that the Camp David development might make people realize the realistic quality of Kennedy's repeated comments that it was far too early for him - or anyone - to plan on challenging Carter's renomination.
"Today," the Kennedy friend said, "it looks like Jimmy Carter has won himself the Nobel Peace Prize. Do you think the Democrats are going to deny their nomination to a president who has done that?"
(A resolution recommending Carter, Sadat and Begin for the Nobel Peace Prize was introduced in the Senate yesterday.)
There was considerable doubt expressed by Republicans that the turnabout in Carter's fortunes will have a major bearing on the mid term elections seven weeks from today. Republican National Chairman Bill Brock, who said Carter "deserves credit for a job well done," also noted that "the president really wasn't cutting oo much against congressional Democrats and we don't think his success on a foreign policy issue will cut too much for them."
Rep. Guy Vander Jagt (R-Mich.) chairman of the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, said, "Every Democrat around was trying to put distance between himself and Carter, and most of (See CARTER, A15, Col. 1) (CARTER, From A1) hem were doing it successfully." Republican pollster Robert Teeter said flatly. "At this point, Carter is almost irrelevant to this year's election, and I doubt Camp David will change that."
Recent polls have shown that the Democrats are likely to retain most or all of their current majorities in the House and Senate in an election in which inflation and taxes - not foreign policy - are the main concerns in voters' minds.
But there was a promise of some long-term benefits for both Carter and his party, if the Camp David agreement does not prove to be a mirage.
Carter has been in serious trouble with the American Jewish community because of persistent reports that his administration was "pressuring" Israel for concessions. His strong backing for the sale of jet planes to Egypt and Saudi Arabia further damaged relations with that normally Democratic constituency.
Yesterday, however, major American Jewish organizations followed Begin's lead in praising Carter's Camp David role. Evan Dobelle, treasurer of the Democratic National Committee, said he had received calls from at least half-a-dozen "large, traditional Jewish givers," who said the agreement "is the opportunity they have been looking for" to rewnew their financial support of the party.
The Middle East breakthrough came at a time when Carter's polls, which have been as low as any reorded for a president at this stage of his tenure, were beginning to show signs of bottoming out and slowly recovering.
An August Gallup Poll showed 39 percent approval for the president, the lowest point of his presidency, with only a slight plurality - 39 to 36 percent - approving his handling of the Middle East situation.
A Lou's Harris poll for ABC television, taken during the early days of the Camp David meeting, showed an overall negative rating of Carter's performance, but 12 points higher than his August floor had been.
Every pollster interviewed yesterday expressed certainty that the successful conclsuion of the summit would bring a significant jump in Carter's polls.
The possible dimensions of that jump may be suggested by past Presidents' experience. The "Mayaguez incident," involving a U.S. military response to Cambodian seizure of an American vessel, boosted Gerald R. Ford's standing 11 points in a month. Richard M. Nixon's trips to Peking and Moscow were worth 12 points in the polls, and the switch from the Christmas bombing of Hanoi in December 1972 to the following months's North Vietnamese agreement to negotiate for peace gained Nixon 16 points in the polls.
The expectations of professional pollsters about the dimensions and durability of Carter's likely gain are capsulized in the comments of Republican Wirthlin and Democrat Hart.
After saying it "has to be a strong positive" for Carter in the short run, Wirthlin noted that "the danger is that the accord may not knit together. In some ways, exaggerated expectations have haunted Carter from the beginning to the administration and have led to a collapse of his political support.
"I can see that possibility happening again if the Arabs don't go along. It would come back to haunt Carter very strongly's Wirthlin said.
"This will probably help Carter through the election," he continued, "but not in the long run. He has been in office long enough now for people to form strong impressions and it will take something much stronger than this to turn the image around."
Hart, on the other hand, said the success of Carter's personal diplomacy is likely to supply "a certain amount of the mystique that has been missing . . . If Henry Kissinger was the supreme, skilled diplomat, this was something even Kissinger couldn't do."
Both Hart and Teeter, a Detroit pollster who handled the 1976 Ford campaign, said the duration of Carter's gains will depend on whether domestic victories now follow the foreign-policy breakthrough.
"The staying power," Hart said, "depends on coupling this with two domestic victories that seem to lie ahead - on civil service and natural gas. If those come, there would be a real sense of confidence building."
Teeter noted that "one of Carter's problems has been that any time something good happens, he seems to get shot in the foot by his own troops. It's important now whether he stays out of trouble, or Andy Young, Ham Jordan or Peter Bourne comes along and blows this one out of the water."