Senate Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W. Va.) said yesterday that Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) undoubtedly would beat President Carter in the West Virginia presidential primary if it were being held today.
"Oh, yes, at this point he would defeat Carter in West Virginia," Byrd said with an air of great certainty. The West Virginia primary is June 3. "If I read the polls without astigmatism, without any myopia, I seem to find he's ahead all over the country" right now. But he added, "Don't count President Carter out yet."
Byrd, at his regular Saturday press conference, also told reporters that Soviet officials had informed him they would grant emigration visas to two Soviet residents with dual citizenship.
Byrd said when he went to Moscow last summer he took along a list of names provided by the State Department of persons with dual U.S.-Soviet citizenship. The department has been trying to gain permission for those persons to come to the United States to join their families. Byrd raised the issue at the highest levels in his visit.
He said the exit visas would be granted to Jan Kargol and his immediate relatives, who had been trying to leave the Soviet Union since 1939; and John Kachurak, who since 1964 has sought permission to leave and be reunited with his mother in Philadelphia. "This is a constructive contribution to U.S.-Soviet relations," he said.
Byrd said he personally asked Kennedy to attend the West Virginia Democratic Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner in Charleston Friday night because "people wanted him." He added that "I was proud to have him in West Virginia," and the dinner had enjoyed the "biggest attendance" that he could remember.
Asked if he himself would be available in November for the Democratic national ticket (the questioner meant as Kennedy's running mate), Byrd said, "I don't foresee that" and then "no."
Byrd said he hopes the Senate will pass the energy bills this week, the "windfall profits" oil tax bill in the week or so after that, and approve the strategic arms limitation treaty before Christmas to wind up the session. But he conceded there might be some slippage, and said that if the treaty isn't finished by around Dec. 20, the Senate would recess to around Jan. 5 and finish the treaty then. He said there would be time before adjournment to take up other important bills such as Chrylser aid which wouldn't take too much floor time.
He said the antitrust bill (the Illinois Brick case) restoring antitrust suits by secondary customers faces a filibuster and he had told Kennedy it probably would be best to wait until early next year for it.
Byrd also strongly endorsed synthetic fuel proposals in the energy bill, particularly for conversion of coal, a major West Virginia resource. He warned that the nation is paying $70 billion a year for oil imports and "gas lines will be back."
He told a few reporters that Kennedy had laughingly told him that if Kennedy had beaten Byrd for the post of Senate Democratic Whip in 1971, instead of losing to him on a 31-to-24 vote, Kennedy would probably be Senate Majority Leader today and Byrd would be out on the presidential campaign trail.