Jimmy Carter has seen the future his political pollster mapped out almost two years ago and has served notice that he intends to take the Democratic Party in that direction.
Last Wednesday night, before a glittering black-tie audience of party officials and contributors, the president delivered the message that he will be preaching from now through the congressional elections this fall and quite possibly through the 1980 presidential campaign.
"I would like to caution all of you Democrats - those in my administration, those in the Congress - that we here in Washington must set an example," he said. "We cannot pass legislation that is identifiably wasteful . . . This is the future of our Democratic Party, a future in which we maintain our vision, even heighten our vision, while governing with prudence and responsibility that builds the confidence of our people in us."
Carter's speech to the Democratic National Committee fund-raising dinner was one of several the White House has prepared and tried out during the last several weeks in a search for the right time for a new basic Carter "stump speech" the president can use this fall while campaigning for Democratic congressional candidates.
Its central message - that Carter and his party stand for "prudent" and "fiscally responsible" management with a heart - is being pushed heavily be presidential adviser Gerald Rafshoon to become the main theme of the Carter presidency through the fall elections and possibly beyond.
It is not a message traditionally associated with Democrats, but White House aides are convinced it is what got Carter elected in 1976 and will get him released in 1980.
Underlying that conviction is the belief that the middle-class constituency that Patrick H. Caddell pin-pointed in his pre-inaugural memo must be won over and maintained, even at the risk of alienating such
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The college-educated, white-collar, middle and upper-middle roting groups [are] growing so large that simply doing slightly better [among them] than in the past is not sufficient to guarantee election. If there is a "future" in politics, it is in this massive demographic change. We now have almost half the roting population with some college education, a growing percentage of white-collar workers and an essentially middle-class electorate.
Patrick H. Caddell
Dec. 10. 1976 memo to President-elect Carter