President Carter flexed the fund-raising muscle of the White House today in the service of the Wisconsin Democratic Party.
The president flew to this northern Wisconsin city this afternoon where his presence attracted more than 1,000 people to a high school gymnasium for a fund-raiser for Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.).
Tonight, Carter flew on to Milwaukee where he was the main attraction at a reception for Rep. Clement Zablocki (D.Wis.) and the featured speaker at a Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner of the state Democratic Party.
By national fund-raising standards, these were penny ante affairs-the Obey supporters paid between $35 and $100 a couple, and the Milwaukee dinner cost $100 a plate.
But beyong question, the few hours Carter spent in Wisconsin today made the Democratic events more successful than they would have been otherwise.
Moreover, with the Wisconsin presidential primary just about a year away, the president could only have been cheered by the reception shown him in a state where he could be particularly vulnerable to a primary challenge from the liberal wing of his party.
Carter was accompanied to Wisconsin by the state's former governor and current U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Patrick J. Lucey, according to widespread reports, will shortly be recalled from Mexico City to take over a State Department committee that is to coordinate U.S. policy toward Mexico.
Without denying those reports, the president clearly sought to diminish suggestions of administration unhappiness with Lucey's service in Mexico City. He told the Milwaukee dinner that Lucey can remain in Mexico "as long as he wants to stay there [because] I have utmost confidence in him."
Carter also appealed for help in gaining Senate approval of a new strategic arms limitation treaty [SALT] with the Soviet Union, warning that Senate rejection would have "profound" consequences for the United States.
In Wausau, several hundred people waited at the airport to greet Carter and were rewarded when the president took the time - which he does not always do-to walk along the airport fence shaking hands.
Good crowds also turned out along Carter's motorcade route into the city. The only sign of discontent in Wausau was the presence of dozens of antiabortion demonstrators across the street from the high school. But this protest was directed less at the president than at Obey, whose voting record in Congress has angered antiabortion groups.
Even larger crowds of antiabortion demonstrators-and a scattering of other protesters-showed up tonight in front of the Milwaukee Exposition Convention Center and arena, site of tonight's dinner.
Obey and Zablocki, separated by age and style, both represent elements in Congress for Carter.
The 40-year-old Obey is a leader in attempts to enact ethics and other "reform" legislation, issues with which the president has sought to be identified. Zablocki, 66, a number of Congress for more than 30 years, has risen through the seniority system to become chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committe, part of the Congressional leadership on which Carter depends.
In Wausau, the president delivered a standard campaign speech, asserting that unemployment has lessened under his administration, that farm income has risen and that "better progress" is being made against inflation than would be possible with mandatory wage and price controls.
Carter also defended his unwillingness to engage the United States directly in foreign upheavals such as the revolution in Iran.
"I believe that the strength and power and influence of the United States must be maintained to exert our own American ideals throughout the world in a beneficial and idealistic way, to make us proud," he said.
"We need not do it by interfering militarily in the internal affairs of other countres. We tried that and we failed."
The president was accompanied to Wisconsin by the state's former governor and current U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Patrick J. Lucey told reporters he knew nothing about reports that he will soon be recalled from Mexico City to head a special State Department Committee that is to coordinate U.S. policy toward Mexico.
White House Press Secretary Jody Powell said Carter spoke this morning with Harold Denton of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, who is supervising efforts to contain the nuclear power plant accident near Harrisburg, Pa. Carter and Denton discussed steps the government and industry should take to improve safety standards for nuclear reactors, said Powell, who would not elaborate.