President Carter's campaign chairman Robert S. Strauss, predicted yesterday that in the next two weeks Carter will show such overwhelming political strength that his renomination at the Democratic convention in August will appear assured.
"By the time we complete the [March 18] Illinois primary, we will have the kind of success that will demonstrate enough support for this president that will convince people that he will go to the convention with a majority of the delegates," Strauss said.
Earlier this week, Strauss predicted that the president will win the Illinois primary, the next key test in his battle for the nomination with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.).
Kennedy now is pointing toward the Illinois primary and the March 25 New York primary as potential turning points in his floundering campaign.
But Strauss, speaking to reporters at a breakfast yesterday, suggested that while Kennedy may not be eliminated, he will have been dealt a series of decisive defeats before the campaign reaches New York.
Next week Kennedy faces the president in primaries in three southern states, Florida, Alabama and Georgia, where Carter is expected to roll up lopsided wins. Strauss noted, however, that between now and the Illinois primary there will be caucus contests in several other states, including Alaska, Washington, Hawaii, Oklahoma and South Carolina.
Calling those states and Illinois "a montage of America" Strauss predicted that "we will set the stage in the next 10 days for a successful, non-contested convention" that the president would enter assured of a majority of the delegates' votes.
"I can assure Mr. Strauss that, come April 1, the Kennedy campaign will be in Wisconsin with both feet and will have picked up a lot of delegates in the meantime," said former Wisconsin governor Patrick Lucey, a Kennedy campaign official.
Strauss conceded that the administration's embarassing disavowal of the United Nations vote censuring Israel for establishing settlements in occupied Arab territories will cause "obvious political damage." The campaign chairman, a key administration link with the Jewish community, said he did not play a role in the decision to make the reversal.
He also said that, despite the controversial U.N. vote and subsequent turnabout, the Carter campaign is doing "nothing different" in states with large Jewish populations, such as Florida.
On domestic issues, Strauss said he is "amazed" that so far there is no evidence that continued high inflation is damaging Carter and helping Kennedy.
But he said he is concerned about the political impact of deep budget cuts the president is expected to propose soon in an effort to counter rising inflation rates.
"The more you cut, the more you reach sensitive places and the more adverse reaction you get," he said.
Strauss said that as of March 1, the Carter campaign had paid all its bills and had a cash surplus of about $1.5 million. He said the campaign thus far has spent about $8 million of the $17.6 million spending allowed by federal law for political activity in the period before the convention.