There is a superficial impression of Democratic chaos in New York -- fueled by street theater and the television networks.
But this is also a disciplined enterprise on the part of the Carter organization, a discipline dramatically demonstrated at today's caucuses. On that evidence, his delegates are solid and unwavering and if any significant number bolted Monday on the issue of "open" convention, both journalists and politicians would be surprised.
The 84 Carter delegates in the Ohio delegation voted unanimously to stick by their candidate. So did the 139 Carter delegates from California. The Virginia delegation -- 59 for Carter -- stood firm. All over the city the Carter legions took similar oaths of fealty.
"This fight," said Carter campaign chairman Robert S. Strauss, "is over."
There were no breaks in the ranks, no signs of Kennedy gains, to dispute or challenge that statement.
This favorable outlook for Carter is not the result of accident. He won 24 of 34 Democratic primaries this year and 17 of 21 caucuses. Since then, he has carefully and effectively cultivated his delegates with White House invitations, patronage and personal telephone calls. And his organization has imposed a discipline on his delegation that leaves little to chance.
The National Education Association, for example, elected 302 voting delegates to this convention, of whom 269 are pledged to Carter. The NEA's president, Willard H. McGuire, spoke, to these delegates today and made it clear what he expects.
The NEA's policymaking body, he said, has voted to support Carter on the open convention issues Monday night and that is what he expected the NEA delegates to do. He reminded them that they had been offered expense accounts and interest-free loans to come to New York and told them that they had not come here to act independently or in contravention of their policy instructions.
To ensure that they vote right, he appointed 24 regional whips and head-counters to monitor their performance on the convenion floor.
Something similar happened in the Kentucky caucus where 38 of 50 delegates are pledged to Carter. The state's governor, John Y.Brown Jr., reminded the Carterites that they are bound by state law to support their candidate. Furthermore, he said, they were bound by their sense of honor.
"I will be very unhappy if any one from this delegation brings dishonor or discredit on this state by violating his pledge," Brown declared.
The state party chairman, Bob Carr, spoke in a similar vein and said "peer pressures are available to us to see that people keep their pledge." He also indicated that political pressures are available, too.
New York state's 118 Carter delegates will be carefully directed Monday night. Joel McCleary, Carter's manager for New York, announced a system to guarantee that when the vote on the open convenion rule is taken, the Carter vote in New York will be delivered.
No Carter delegate may leave the hall during the roll call, he said, without first being replaced by a Carter alternate. He also announced that he had appointed one "whip" for every 12 Carter delegates.
At the Iowa caucus tonight, the Carter forces showed their cohesion and strength -- by blotting out a brief flirtation with the open convention idea led by the delegation chairman, Clark Rasmussen. A week ago, Rasmussen declared he would vote for an open convention and that half of the 31 Carter delegates would, too, if Secretary of State Edmund S. Muskie should become a candidate.
Tonight, Rasmussen profusely apologized for that statement and a straw vote demonstrated how little support the idea has. The results: 23 delegates against the proposal, five undecided and only three in favor.