While the Democratic Party gathered in Madison Square Garden tonight to renominate Jimmy Carter, about 75 disillusioned delegates and alternates, mostly Kennedy supporters, met in a private club a mile away to be wooed by the campaign of John B. Anderson.
Gathered amid the "Dump Carter" T-shirts and "I live Teddy" bottons were a Democratic congressman, the state treasurer of Wisconsin a member of the Democratic National Committe and the former Cochairman of the Republican Party, Mary Crisp.
Anderson was not there. He was across town, meeting with other disenchanted delegates. Crisp, who earlier today was named chairman of his campaign, carried his message.
"You have the same dilemma as I did," she said. "It's very, very hard when you've worked for your party, when you believe in our party and its principles, and then you find your party has retreated on its principles and beliefs.
"As politicians who have worked their way up through the ranks, there's a time when you simply have to say, 'We can't vote for the nominee of the party.'"
These were powerful words from a woman who left her GOP post last month after blasting the party for abandoning its support of the equal Rights Amendment after 40 years.
The crowd, which include Rep. Eugene V. Atkinson (D-Pa.), listened attentively. Some had already pinned red Anderson buttons above their blue Kennedy buttons. They wanted to hear more about Anderson and his independent candidacy.
"I'm not ready to become an Anderson man," said Wisconsin Treasurer Charles Smith."At this time I'm willing to support the Carter-Mondale ticket. But if he screws up one more time, I'm finished."
"As a Kennedy delegate who has spent nine months in this fight, meeting the incredible, unethical and dishonest tactics of the Carter people, I don't think I can as a responsible citizen vote for Carter," said Raquel Frankel, a District of Columbia delegate.
I'm not ready to bolt the party," she added. "But I'm lookin."
Anderson hoped for just such reactions today as he buzzed around the fringes of the Democratic Party like a bee ready to strike.
No one knows exactly how much sting his candidacy holds for President Carter. but there were enough ominous signs to cause jitters for Carter supporters in industrial states vital to a Democratic victory in November.
Anderson has tried to increase these jitters, scheduling private meeting with influential Democtrats. His intrusion into the party, however, remains more of a threat than a reality.
To date, only one major party figure, Joseph L. Rauh Jr., has endorsed his candidacy, Rauh is a founder of the liberal Americans for Democratic Action and was an adviser to Democratic presidential candidates George McGovern, Hubert H. Humphrey and Lyndon B. Johnson.
"I am 70 years old and I have never voted for anyone but a Democrat in a presidential election in my life," Rauh, a District of Columbia convention delegate, said today.
"I'm a little tired of Democrats and Republicans. I think Anderson is simply the best candidate. I'd rather support a man who is moving to the left than a man who moves in circles," he said, comparing Anderson with Carter.
In the last two days, Anderson has met with former Wisconsin governor Patrick Lucey, an ardent Kennedy supporter: Peter F. Flaherty, the Democratic Senate nominee from Pennsylvania; historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., a longtime friend of the Kennedy family; a caucus of black and Hispanic delegates from New Jersey, and a number of low-level Kennedy aides.
He has also scheduled a meeting with Rep. Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, a Senate nominee.
Everyone who has met Anderson has had nice words for him but not much else. Flaherty, a former Carter appointee in the Justice Department, called Anderson "very articulate." Lucey, Kennedy's deputy national chairman, said Anderson and Kennedy have many beliefs in common.
And Sharpe James, a Newark city councilman, said he had sought a meeting with Anderson because "we want the black and Hispanic community to know that they are not just stuck with two alternatives. There is a third alternative, John B. Anderson."
Anderson's meetings and the talk of his independent candidacy affected many of the Democratic delegates. His session with Flaherty was "a bum-buster that went through the Pennsylvania delegation like wildfire," said Richard Givens, a Pittsburgh city councilman.
He described Flaherty as a naverick, and recalled that Flaherty had endorsed Carter in 1976 "when everyone else was saying 'Jimmy Who?' He [Flaherty] just might be thinking a little further ahead than anyone else again."