WELL, thank God -- the voters of New York and Connecticut, on Tuesday, granted a reprieve to an entire American industry, the very existence of which was threatened until the electorate intervened. A veritable army of journalists, broadcasters, technicians and pollsters (not to mention assorted, sages and pundits) were eyeball to eyeball with unemployment. But Sen. Edward Kennedy, with victories in both New York and Connecticut, not only saved these people's jobs; he also saved the rest of us from an eight-month general election campaign.
For at least one election and in at least two states, Sen. Kennedy was able to do what challengers to incumbents have historically done: make the policies and the personality of the incumbent, in this case President Carter, the issue and present himself as the alternative. Mr. Kennedy, for a number of personal and even geopolitical reasons, had not been able to execute this strategy in earlier primaries. Whether he will be able to keep the focus on Mr. Carter in succeeding primaries has put some interest and suspense back into the Democratic presidential contest.
Unquestionably, the Carter administration's handling of the United Nations vote on Israel hurt the president, and helped the senator, among New York's Jewish voters. But the dimensions of the Kennedy victory in New York, as well as his upset in Connecticut, indicated that a lot more than the United Nations was on voters' minds. Mr. Carter, who earlier benefited from anxiety over the crisis in Iran, may now be paying for the stalemate and the absence of any public evidence that there is a prospect of resolution.
Connecticut was full of surprises. Mr. Bush, returning to one of his many home states, won an upset victory over Mr. Reagan. Although only three weeks had passed since Mr. Bush's last victory (in Massachusetts, another of his home states), it must have seemed like a lifetime to Bush partisans because of the bad news from South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Illinois in between. Mr. Bush can now head into Wisconsin as a winner and with exclusive and undisputed claim to the designation as: sole surviving, acceptable (to the Republicans) alternative to Mr. Reagan. Mr. Reagan's near-sweep of the delegates in New York more than made up for his Connecticut loss.
Wisconsin and Kansas hold primaries next Tuesday. Mr. Kennedy seems undecided about whether to make full-fledged efforts in these states or simply concentrate on Pennsylvania on April 22.It is the kind of indecision that has plagued the Kennedy campaign since November and that must be resolved if the senator is to challenge the presiedent seriously in the remaining states. For Mr. Carter, presumably some new campaign decisions on strategy and tactics are going to have to be made too.